Matt Jarvis’s recent interview with Attitude magazine has been a positive and constructive step for gay footballers in the English Premier League. Jarvis become only the third professional footballer to be on the cover of Attitude; David Beckham and Freddie Ljunberg having previously featured.
Personally and am sure I speak for most other football fans do not feel that race, religious views or sexuality has any bearing upon the skills and ability of a player. Although there is not as much stigma still attached to sexuality within many other employment sectors and the wider world, it has been felt in media reports recently that within the football community it is still very much a taboo subject. If it is not an issue to many people within everyday life, why should it still be so in football?
Surely what a football fan wants is a player that is 100% committed and gives everything for that football club, so whether that player is straight, bisexual or homosexual should not matter.
Unfortunately there is still going to be a small narrow-minded minority of all football fans from all clubs up and down the country that are still stuck in the dark ages, but is our job as fans of our clubs not to let this happen and eradicate the ignorance of this minority. If you look back over the years and see how far football has come from the early years of 1960’s were racial abuse was rife, compared to where we are now it’s a radical change. Granted you still do get occasions of racism in football some of which have been recently hugely publicised but I feel that this will help raise the profile further of organisations and their aims of stamping it out. I think that a similar emphasis from fans and support groups should be evident relating to sexuality within football. Attitude’s editor also feels that more focus should be placed upon ridding the game of homophobia.
Whilst Matt has stated he is heterosexual, he also holds the view that sexuality should not impact upon a player’s career. He feels that footballers ‘coming out’ could in fact help their career as they are playing without distraction or worry. Very few players have came out and publicly stated they are homosexual and this may be down to the experiences of previous players who have had the confidence to do so such as Justin Fashanu. Fashanu came out in 1990 and suffered considerable, prolonged abuse as a result. He committed suicide eight years later.
I think the article given by Matt Jarvis will incite discussion and hopefully other players will follow in showing their support or actually have the confidence to come out as gay. The FA and UEFA will also have a role to play so any gay footballers do feel they have the backing and support of there fellow colleagues. The impact of coming out as gay in everyday life to friends and family is tough enough so imagine what it must be like having come out as gay in such a surrounding as football in the public eye. Rugby have began to conquer the issues with ex Welsh player Gareth Thomas coming out in 2009 while still playing.
Footballers are often heroes for many people during their childhood and what better example is there for a young person than some of these players having the confidence to show who they are and be able to do this without prejudice.
As a West Ham fan I am immensely proud that a West Ham player openly supports players coming out as bisexual or gay. These are the type of players that should be representing the beautiful game of football. Football and we as fans have done an amazing job focusing on ridding the game of racism but we have to equally make the same effort to rid the game of homophobia. There are obviously bisexual and gay footballers but not only that bi and gay fans alike who are as passionate and religious about football as everyone else so I hope that by Matt Jarvis doing this other players and clubs follow suit and start to go in the right direction in raising the issue of sexuality in football.