Soccer gay moments

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If you attend enough matches, you will hear abusive language. Fans may not mean it badly but their words still carry weight. By Ross Hunter for Nutmeg magazine. I t is a cold March night at MacDiarmid Park. St Johnstone have just salvaged a draw against Hibs with an equaliser in the 83rd minute. As the referee blows the full-time whistle, the exasperated breath of a few thousand Hibees meets in the air above our he. We stand up, almost in unison and, clutching programmes and scarves, we begin the trudge out of the stadium. Despite the scoreline, I am happy.

I miss spending time with my brothers and my dad. I miss the palpable tension, the songs, the beauty and the rage apparent in a Friday night league game late into the season.

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I miss the scalding innards of a macaroni pie devoured too quickly. I miss, more than anything, the football. The depth of camaraderie that comes with following a team, particularly one whose fortunes seem to fluctuate year upon year. As we leave we can see Ally McCoist in the punditry booth, elevated in the corner of the Soccer gay moments. Ally obliges with a big grin, knowing that this adoration is only fleeting.

Still, the crowd cheers, happy to be acknowledged. Indeed, just over half of Scottish football fans surveyed by the Equality Network in reported witnessing homophobic behaviour at a football ground. While rugby fans are praised for the welcoming atmospheres they create at Murrayfield, the same cannot be said for the crowds that gather weekly in the grounds of football stadiums across the nation. The zero-tolerance approach of clubs towards racism Soccer gay moments been commendable.

And yet while the policies against homophobic language remain as stringent as that against racism, the reality of enforcement is different. This is, I think, partly because of the way homophobic language has imbedded itself so deeply into the Scottish vernacular as to seem almost innocuous.

In all my dealings with him he had never said an unkind word or treated me in any way differently because I was gay. The word just slipped out. The trouble was he ended up inferring that those were immutable characteristics of, well, me. Just listen to the language hurled at referees and officials or observe their dwindling retention rates, particularly of those working in amateur leagues.

Referees at least know what they are ing up for. Gay people are largely treated as collateral damage. I just want to watch the football. Many people point to the notable absence of any openly gay football players in a major league as proof of the inhospitable environment. He hung himself after being accused of sexually assaulting a year-old boy in the state of Maryland where all homosexual acts were, at that time, illegal.

I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family. It may seem that rainbow laces have had little tangible effect, but the very fact of their visibility als a promise of acceptance that has been long overdue. Perhaps, then, it is not so much the fear of discrimination that keeps players from sharing who they really are, but fear of the fanaticism and intrusion they would face should they choose to tell the media.

The dilemma any prospective gay footballer faces is that their career would be overshadowed by their story. Whoever chooses to become the first openly gay professional male football player in the UK would be falling on a sword that would bleed them of their privacy. By coming out they would destroy any chance of being known solely for their talent as a player rather than a personal life that the tabloid newspapers would undoubtedly feast upon.

And yet, it is necessary. Because until young gay players can see themselves in the Premier League all but the strongest-willed will hang up their boots prematurely. Young players have to deal with the fierce competition of getting scouted, the stress of negotiating contracts, of possibly uplifting their lives year-upon-year just to maintain a career. Any other added stress increases the chances of failure. But until they do the absence of a role model will continue to damage not just individual players but the game as whole. How much talent has already been squandered due to fear of prejudice?

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How is anyone expected to report homophobic language when the victims of its damage remain anonymous? I stopped playing football when I was 12 years old. So, I quit because it was too hard to get bullied and play football. Too Soccer gay moments an experience for a year-old to cope with. A gay footballer might have given me hope. In all likelihood I would never have amounted to anything as a player I was, at best, a serviceable right winger. Yet the commonplace consequence of discrimination is that we will never know how many goals have gone unscored or trophies unlifted. Senseless prejudice robs the world of talent.

And until we see it — until that talent can walk onto a pitch and not fear the slurs or the chants or the cheap journalistic jokes about what happens in the showers at full-time — we will continue to be impoverished. Guardian Sport Network Football. Despite its best intentions, football remains unwelcoming of gay fans. Fans may not mean it badly but their words still carry weight By Ross Hunter for Nutmeg magazine. Football should be for everyone but it is not always hospitable.

Ross Hunter. Thu 24 Sep The joy of going to football matches with your grandpa and his friends. A love letter to five-a-side football. Topics Football Guardian Sport Network features.

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Soccer gay moments

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