Make football a place for all. That’s the pipe dream.
Anyone who knows me knows that homophobia in football is an issue that I’ve always felt strongly about. As a heterosexual male I’m extremely fortunate never to have experienced such prejudices, but some subjects (whether they directly impact you or not) just get you where it hurts.
For a multi-billion pound industry, football is guilty of living in the dark ages at times. Homophobia being so prevalent in the sport is the perfect example.
There are 92 teams in the English football league each consisting of on average 25 players, that’s 2300 players in England alone and not a single individual is openly gay. I get it, but I also DON’T GET IT. Is it fear of a fans backlash? Fear of losing a contract? Fear of press attention? All I know is ‘fear’ should not be a factor when it comes to anyone’s sexual orientation. More has to be done by the powers that be to create a safe environment that doesn’t force players to hide their sexuality. Perhaps tackling this issue once and for all would be FIFA’s chance to redeem themselves for all the bullsh*t of the last 20 years?
It’s important to acknowledge that not all players want to come out, but it’s up to everyone involved in the sport to ensure that the ones who do want to – can.
The LGBT community is full of incredible spokespeople who fight these issues on a daily basis, but I also believe in ALL OF US doing the little bit that we can to show our support, and proudly wearing these stripes is the little bit that I can do.
What we need to remember is that people aren’t looking for an excuse to flaunt their sexuality in our faces, they’re simply just looking for a safe space to exist as who they truly are. How can anyone in football (and beyond) argue with that?
I have to give a massive shout-out to both Deportivo Guadalajara and Real Vallecano in Spain who released these rainbow strips to support gay pride and an to push for an end to homophobia in football. The gesture went widely under the radar in the UK when it happened back in 2015, but perhaps sooner rather than later British clubs will start to follow suit.