Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Why homophobia's the real problem (not snoods)

Phew! Finally the game's law-makers have spoken on the big issue of the day and we can all relax. Snoods have been banned.

The International Football Association Board's edict came into immediate effect due to the 'potential danger' posed by the neck warmers (despite the fact players have been wearing them for years in Europe with no ill-effects). Some other stuff came out of their meeting about goal-line technology possibly being used at the next World Cup, but who cares about that? As long as no one accidentally hangs themselves from the crossbar.

The vanguard of the anti-snood campaign has been The Mail on Sunday, the upstanding moral guardian of all that's British. Over this winter, the paper helpfully kept a close watch on the 'epidemic' of 'top-flight-softies' wearing snoods and (heaven forbid) gloves and also pointing out how many of these despicable individuals were foreign and how many were traitors, I mean British.

Their campaign was backed by a chorus of disapproval from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, who said snoods were for 'powder puffs' before banning his players from wearing them; Notts County manager Paul Ince, who said snoods 'weren't right' and that players 'will be wearing skirts next'; and former Scotland and Ipswich star Alan Brazil, who said that the 'tarts' who wear snoods had 'all gone soft'.

Look at him all 'warm' in the snow. Sickening.

Even the First Lady of Football, cuddly Karen Brady, was moved to say that if she saw a West Ham player wearing a snood she'd "rip it off with her own bare hands".

The message is loud and clear - snood-wearing is typical behaviour for foreigners, but we expect higher standards from Brits, and if a home-grown player did sport a snood, well then they're just not a real man are they?

Let's not kid ourselves, this is not a debate about the dangers of snoods, but thinly disguised homophobia with a side order of racism and, when such terminology is used in a debate about an item of clothing, it's little wonder why there are no openly gay players in the Premier League.

In 2008 former Chelsea player Paul Elliott, now an adviser to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, estimated there were at least 12 gay, high-profile footballers who were too scared to reveal their true sexuality. Likewise, PR guru Max Clifford says he has advised two gay Premier League footballers to stay in the closet because football "remains in the dark ages, steeped in homophobia".
A hard man is good to find.

Such is the discrimination surrounding the issue, even heterosexuals have been victims. In 2009 a man and a 14-year-old boy were convicted of aiming homophobic abuse at Sol Campbell, and Graeme Le Saux says there is a 'general culture of acceptance that exists towards homophobia in football' which led to him having to endure years of abuse from fans and fellow professionals simply because he reads The Guardian and likes art galleries.

To see how immature football is, just look at cricket and rugby. Last week England wicketkeeper Steven Davies announced he was gay and received widespread support from within the game with little fanfare, and a year ago Welsh rugby's Gareth Thomas did likewise with the same result. This weekend the Sheffield Eagles will dedicate their game against Widnes Vikings to the RFL's "Homophobia: Let's Kick it Out" campaign and will wear a one-off shirt sponsored by  LGBT History Month and Pride Sports. 

FIFA's choice of Qatar as the venue of the 2022 World Cup will provide a litmus test for football on this issue, as in that country homosexuality is illegal and jail terms have in the past been imposed on non-citizens for the 'crime'  - presenting a threat to gay fans from all over the world.

FIFA could take a stance and tell Qatar to decriminalise homosexuality or lose the World Cup but its attitude so far has been passive at best. When asked about the problems homosexuals might face in the country, Sepp Blatter said: "in football we have no boundaries. We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination."

However, these comments were preceded by a remark which suggests they were merely empty rhetoric - he glibly said gay fans visiting Qatar should "refrain from sexual activity". Snoods really aren't the problem at all.


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Martin Palazzotto said...

wow, a five site comment. That guy probably wears a snood in July.