Homosexuality & football

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As the beautiful game becomes more gay friendly, author Chas Newkey-Burden thinks major changes are afoot

  • Homosexuality & football

    Freddie Ljungberg won a huge following for posing in his Calvins (not pictured)

  • Forget Old Compton Street, Ikea stores, pulsating nightclubs and the opera. If you want a really gay environment to hang out in, head to your local football club. It’s true! When I last wrote about football in these pages eight years ago, the relationship between gay men and football was a largely unspoken and entirely depressing one. Justin Fashanu had recently taken his own life, stadiums across the country resonated with homophobic abuse and the idea that a professional footballer may one day come out as gay was simply laughable.

    Since then, football has gone gay crazy. David Beckham has given flirty interviews to gay style magazines and boasted to his wife that he is a gay icon. Arsenal pin-up Freddie Ljungberg also decided to ‘bend it like Beckham’ and posed for homoerotic photos to promote Calvin Klein underwear. ITV’s ‘Footballers’ Wives’ has included a controversial storyline about a gay player and, in the real world, the front pages of tabloids print innuendo about the sexuality of assorted Premiership stars while programmes from BBC1’s ‘Football Focus’ to ‘Question Time’ discuss the possibility of homosexual players. Meanwhile, clubs including Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are adopting anti-homophobia policies. Since when did football go so gay?

    In truth football began coming out quite some time ago. Since Paul Gascoigne cried to a soundtrack of ‘Nessun Dorma’ during the 1990 World Cup semi-final, the game has gone through a makeover that the ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ team would be proud of. As the hooligans, riots and crumbling terraces disappeared, a polite stampede of new fans arrived at modern stadiums to cheer on cosmopolitan teams full of continental players whose cultural and lifestyle tastes were a far cry from the ‘beer, birds and pies’ stereotypes of English football. Football was once the flabby couch potato of sport, scratching its large, hairy behind. Now it is the lithe young buck, admiring its own pert ass in the mirror.

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