Judge them by their Success

By Robbie P.

As our class is gender, sport and leisure, I thought I would choose a topic which could hopefully create some discussion for everyone. Homosexuality is a topic which is widely discussed and abused globally. Many people use terms in a derogatory manner, often either implying that someone is a homosexual or their perceived action is viewed as being homosexual. It is not uncommon for words to be thrown around a professional sport clubs change room. I’m going to be focusing on the difficulties that homosexual football (soccer) players face in their change room, and why they are so afraid of letting their voices be heard. Whilst I am fully aware that it happens in other sports, this is my topic of interest and so my examples will derive from this sport.

I would like to address that football is a working class sport, loved and played by all. It’s the easiest and cheapest sport to play by a distance, with limited resources needed to play. The participation rates for males and females globally, are making it the world’s leading recreational sport by a distance.  Other sports like American football are largely watched and played, but only in one country, football is global. It is a sport which is accepting of all people, yet sadly there are some bad apples, like in every sport, which cannot accept certain people. An example of anti-homosexual behaviour came from a Brazilian judge, way back in 2007, who said “football was a virile masculine sport and not a homosexual one”. Okay, we have a few issue here. Firstly, as a soccer player myself it’s not a masculine sport, and I’ll be the first to admit that. There’s to much diving and rolling around to even consider that, it’s almost like play-acting (the irony is, it’s mostly Brazilians who do so!!). I’m not saying it’s not physically demanding, but it’s not comparable to rugby where they fly for each other. Secondly, the number of women playing soccer in the North American continent is unbelievable, and their Nationals teams are far more successful than their men’s. The third thing I’d like to mention is that a person’s talent should not be judged on their gender. It should be judged on their talent and success.

The most recent footballers to open up about their homosexuality was former male German international Thomas Hitzlsperger in 2014, and Casey Stoney, former Team GB captain at the 2012 London Olympics. Both athletes openly admitted, only after retiring from the sport. These athletes show that hegemony is not seamless and that there is a possibility of softening hegemonic masculinity in the sporting realm. The first ever player to publicize his affection to the same sex whilst playing, was English footballer Justin Fashanu. He took so much criticism from team-mates and managers at the time, but eventually committed suicide at the age of 37. A young male had accused him of sexual assault, which drove him to take his own life (article included in references). I am all for professional athletes coming out and revealing whether they are attracted to members of the same sex. I feel like it will include more people in the sport and opens a number of gates for more participants to feel welcome. I have included a link to comments made by Preston North End goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard (formerly of Manchester United), as his support for the LGBTQ community. He talks about the culture in the footballing world, how it would be accepted by the players and managers nowadays, but there are still some old school fans who would be completely against it.

One thing I am impressed with is the progress that is being made within the LGBTQ societies surrounding football, and more players are beginning to realize that change is needed. A study by Roper and Halloran (2007), looked at the views of heterosexual male and female student-athletes on homosexual male and female athletes. It was reported that the men were seemingly more negative in their views as opposed to the women. I would be interested in seeing a study of what this would look like, 10 years on, and how far we have come as a community. It’s all just a matter of who takes the big step forward and becomes only the 2nd person to openly admit to being attracted to the opposite sex, whilst they are still an active participant in the professional industry. Everyone should be judged on their success, talent and effort, no one should be judged by their sex or gender.

References and Links:

Anderson, E. (2016). Openly Gay Athletes. Gender & Society, 16(6), 860-877.

Roper, E. A., & Halloran, E. (2007). Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbians Among Heterosexual Male and Female Student-Athletes. Sex Roles, 57(11), 919-928.

http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/bcoffsurv/emaga_9384_10704.pdf  (Fifa Survey)

http://www.breakingnews.ie/sport/football-needs-gay-hero-says-manchester-united-goalkeeper-575849.html (Anders Lindegaard)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/167715.stm (Justin Fashanu)




3 responses

  1. Great topic, it is truly bewildering how in 2017 one’s sexuality can have such a negative reaction from people. I agree with you that sexuality should not matter, because one’s sexuality does not impede on one’s athletic ability. I think you covered a lot in this blog post, and I would like to add one thing. How can we make sport safe for the LGBTQ Community? People do not play sport or do not feel comfortable expressing who they really are in the sporting community. Locker rooms, bus trips, hotel stays, are all potentially unsafe places for them because of the negative reactions and homophobia they could potentially experience.

    I think it begins at a demand. We must demand change, and thus we must demand that policies are created to protect and help this community. Everyone should feel safe and have the opportunity to participate in sport, and especially like you said that soccer is wildly available globally. We should work on making it widely available for all sexualities. Most likely, since the first game of soccer there has been a wide variety of sexualities on the team, but we are programmed to think that heterosexuality is the norm. Anyone who is opposed to the LGBTQ community being on their team ought to realize, they already are, they might be your star player, and as your teammate, ought they feel safe?

  2. Hey Robbie,
    It’s cool to see a post regarding this topic as it is seldom crossed in a lot of cases. It is incredible to think that some of the world still puts such a stigma on those with their respective sexuality. Today’s respective generation X puts so much hate on those who see themselves as homosexual, the same way in the 1940’s racism towards African Americans was so prevalent. That being said, it is being attacked on a much different platform then was available in the 40’s.
    I agree with you though, LGBTQ has made great progress in the last few years, but is it enough? There is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to the progression of inclusion in sport. No one should have to feel like a second rate player due to how they identify their sexuality. What we need to do is think about how singular actions can start a movement. Consider change, and change will consider you. Sports offers some of the greatest improvements on human nature. Sports not only offer physical activity, but it also teaches respect, discipline, leadership, teamwork, hardwork, and dedication. Adding tolerance to that list only enhances the character building opportunities for athletes.

  3. Excellent post, Robbie!

    Sport, especially elite level sport, encourages and idealizes hegemonic masculinity, through normalizing pain and placing an emphasis on physical appearance, body shape, and muscularity. Both male and female athletes are critiqued on so much more than their athleticism and skill set in their specific sport. Often times the media overshadows their athletic success by focusing on things irrelevant to their sport, such as questioning about the athlete’s relationship status or fitness apparel they are wearing.

    Especially with the rise in social media, professional athletes are under constant pressure to maintain an image, both on and off the field (or court, or whatever terrain the athlete is competing on). This image allows the athlete to build their own brand, creating sponsorship opportunities, increasing and expanding their fan base and appeal, etc. Evidently, with such a large portion of an athlete’s financial success relying on their brand and not their skills, it pressures the athletes to conform to something they’re not. Unfortunately, in today’s society being a successful athlete also means maintaining current social and cultural norms.

    However, I believe as more athletes in the LGBTQ community open up about their sexuality and share their experiences, it will be more accepted; similar to the rise in popular female athletes. Once people are exposed to these role models, hopefully, it will start a trend of acceptance and openness within sport, in general. I definitely agree the focus should be shifted and athletes, professional and recreational, should be critiqued on their skill level and not on their sexual orientation, which is not even relevant to the sport.

    Megan C.

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