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A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post that touched on homophobia in football – you should read this over at Between the Lines about the London Falcolns Gay Football Club, who play in the Gay Football Supporters’ Network National League, founded in 2002 and billed as “the largest LGBT-friendly 11-a-side league in the world”.
The piece details the club’s players’ struggle to deal with touch choices over how to deal with the persistence of homophobic attitudes and chanting in the sport: to opt-out, and play in a league that’s overtly gay-friendly, or persist in trying to change the sport from within its usual channels? The answers are honest and interesting:
Support, however, is by no means unanimous within the gay community. “There is a lot of opposition to gay football” says Ian Kehoe, the club’s captain and chairman. “Our sponsors, FitLads the dating website, have forums on there. Often you’ll see someone who is obviously gay posting ‘why the hell are you lot separating yourself from the wider football community? Why do you have to have an exclusively gay team?’ I’d say one of these posts is started every day just on the topic of gay football.” The justification, as Ian argues, is that of positive discrimination. “You’re taking an unprincipled step back in order to take two forward. Maybe gay football is a step back. But it’s getting a lot of gay people who wouldn’t otherwise play to step into the game. From there they might then filter out into regular teams”.
Talking to the players about their personal experiences outside of the Falcons, it’s hard to deny the legitimacy of Ian’s rationale. Homophobic abuse, says one goalkeeper, is too often the norm. “For one team I played for in the past, coming out would be absolutely out of the question. The team talk would be ‘you’re playing like a bunch of fucking queers’. If I’d come out they’d have told me to fuck off”. Having joined the Falcons recently, the keeper continues to play for a semi-professional club, a club at which he was recently ‘outed’. “It’s shit”, he states, “it’s just not what you do. On the first day of everyone knowing I was gay a couple of people gave a bit of banter, but some others were like ‘nah’. I was on the bench and one of our strikers got taken off – he was one of my better friends there. When someone jokingly asked if I fancied him he went ‘don’t even fucking answer that, I hate this gay business’”. In the face of such hostility, he has since decided to leave.