A BBC documentary presented by the daughter of former Wimbledon striker John Fashanu, discussed the “need for an openly gay footballer”. More pertinent is Amal Fashanu’s relation as niece to Justin Fashanu, the first footballer in Britain to come out as homosexual. The overwhelming assumption that appeared to be made is that the lack of openly gay footballers is a problem. Of course this was something close to Miss Fashanu’s heart as her Uncle famously committed suicide following his coming out and this perhaps makes her view somewhat biased. But is the lack of openly gay footballers really a problem?
Do we really need an openly gay footballer? Does their sexual preference matter? Why is that significant to us as football fans? Is it even significant at all? It has no bearing on their ability to perform on a Saturday afternoon, so do we actually care?
The answer is seemingly yes! We do care. In today’s celebrity obsessed world we are increasingly interested in the private lives of our heroes. Twitter is a great example to illustrate this, whilst we know and respect these people perhaps even idolise them for their ability with a ball at their feet, we are increasingly looking for ways to feel closer to them and to know more about them. We are interested in them as people, what they do away from the pitch, how they think and what they care about. The number of followers of footballers and other celebrities highlights this. We want to know what Joey Barton thinks about the state of the economy, we want to know what Wayne Rooney is having for breakfast.
So do we want to know if a player is gay? Will that affect how we think about them? Can a Football fan idolise a homosexual player in the same way as a heterosexual player?
There is a certain stigma attached to being gay in football. A few years back newspaper speculation regarding the sexuality of Sol Campbell is thought by some to be a factor in his very public breakdown, that saw him walk off the field at half time in a game against West Ham to then eventually quit Arsenal Football Club without playing another game for them that season.
This is an example of how thoughts that a player is gay can be detrimental to the player and the game. Can we ever get past this stigma and move on from these outdated views without a player brave enough to come out openly as gay? Is it essential for someone to get the ball rolling to make homosexuality something that we are more tolerant and accepting of? Or does it really not matter?
In my opinion it is something that I feel needs to eventually happen. It is a shame that sexuality matters but unfortunately in the world we live in now players private lives are of great interest to the public and therefore to newspapers and other media. The only way I feel this can stop being an issue with the potential to destroy people, like with Justin Fashanu, is if being gay becomes something players are open about and everyone involved with football learns to accept.