I didn’t choose to be gay or an Aston Villa fan. I attended my first football game at Villa Park in the late 1990s, and I knew I was gay even then. Was it the muscled torsos, moustaches or the long shorts? None of the above, really, I just knew I liked guys.
It was the home ground of my new club, that the incident that stopped me from playing completely occurred. My teammates were aware that I was gay – none of them were openly against me – but the slurs continued to circulate. It was part of the culture.
If you’re looking for a film that assesses the hypotheticals of what happens when a high-profile footballer comes out as gay, then Wonderkid isn’t going to tick the boxes. The film doesn’t speculate on that particular future, leaving it up to the imagination of the audience to decide how Bradley McGuire’s openness about his sexuality is perceived.
On Tuesday afternoon, Manchester United announced that they were to partner with LGBT equality charity Stonewall and absolutely nothing happened.
Cristiano Ronaldo has long been the subject of speculation about his sexuality. Certainly when he was playing for Manchester United in the Premier League, there was a regular discussion of his orientation among opposition fans, though it died down a lot following his move to Real Madrid in 2009 – whether the intensity of the rumours carried over to Spanish circles is another matter.
There can’t be many people left that feel football has no issue with homophobia after the events of the weekend. On Saturday, Andre Gray of Burnley found himself at the centre of a media frenzy – he’d scored his first ever Premier League goal in his side’s 2-0 victory over Liverpool and, instead of making the headlines for his rise through to the top, he found himself on the back pages because of a series of homophobic tweets from some four years earlier.
It came as little surprise to thousands of fans that England made a miserable, yet predictable, early exit in another tournament this summer. As ever the hype surrounding the young exciting team who play without fear before Euro 2016 was obscene. During that time another England team were calmly going about their business without the media circus.
Picture the situation. You’re sitting in the stands at your favourite football club’s latest home match. They’re losing, because of course they’re losing, and tensions are running high as time ticks down on the clock for the equaliser. A member of the opposition team goes down and stays down, though you suspect he’s play-acting to slow the game down. Or, at least, he’s making it out to be worse than it is.
Like the vast majority of football supporters throughout the world, I am a heterosexual man.
I say that because the fact that straight men like me vastly outnumber women and LGBTQI people on the terraces is one of the main reasons that, in 2016, the beautiful game still has an ugly problem when it comes to homophobia.
“There’s no f*cking hot water!” a slightly portly man with a meat and potato pie announced in front of me, spraying the mouthful he had just taken over the crowd of unfortunate people who had been waiting hopefully for a warm drink. They, like the gentlemen atop the queue, would be sorely disappointed. For the record, the urn had broken at that particular kiosk, meaning the people that should have been collecting tea, coffee or Bovril would have to go without. Or go to a different kiosk.
So today is the day that all football fans have been anticipating – the release of the Barclays Premier League fixtures for the 2016-17 season, which kick-off on Saturday 13 August.
It was during a recent Premier League encounter that a group of the home fans discussed whether or not calling someone a “tart” for remaining on the ground following a challenge was indeed homophobic.