Retired footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger’s recent admission that he is homosexual prompts the question: is the Premiership ready to accept an openly gay player on the pitch?
Unfortunately I have to say no I don’t think it is. A player’s sexuality should make no difference at all, he should be judged purely on his ability. But the harsh reality is the beautiful game does have an ugly side. Many fans take a tribal mentality and will say just about anything in the heat of the moment to give their side the advantage.
I don’t condone this, but I can imagine the chanting an openly gay footballer would have to endure during a match, and I would not wish it on anyone.
Liam Davis, the only openly gay footballer in the Conference North, has said he wishes Hitzlsperger had come out during his career, as such an act might prompt others to follow suit and the taboo surrounding sexuality might become a thing of the past.
I can see his point – part of the problem is no one has done it before so the first person to do so will really be stepping into uncharted territory.
But football fans aren’t like tennis or diving aficionados. Not all football fans will take part in homophobic chanting I know, but the reality is many will.
So where does this leave gay footballers? Or any other footballer who doesn’t fit the strict macho stereotype?
It’s ironic that the ultimate football poster boy – David Beckham – is a metrosexual fashion-follower happy to be pictured in a sarong. Yet while Becks is universally loved, it is widely accepted that an openly gay footballer would face a barrage of abuse on the pitch.
I can only hope that while the Premiership may not be ready at the moment to deal with an openly gay footballer, in a few years it will be and all issues of race and sexuality will be forgotten and fans can focus on the game itself.