fb

Everyday homophobia and imposed heterosexuality in football

By: Sylvain Ferez, Université de Montpellier

File 20180706 122280 5h68nb.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
In 2016, Norwich City Football Club was one of dozens of English football teams that took part in the Stonewall Charity’s “Rainbow Laces” campaign to combat discrimination against LGBT fans and players.
Canaries.co.uk

 

How many top athletes worldwide are openly gay? And how were their coming outs received? In 2018, the issue of homosexuality in sport is still taboo and creates discomfort among both players and fans.

Recent surveys indicate that in a number of countries, the public is more accepting of gay athletes. A 2018 poll in France found that 85% of those surveyed felt that homosexuality in football was “acceptable” and that it was important to fight homophobia. A US poll, conducted in 2014 after NFL draft prospect Michael Sam announced that he was homosexual, found that 65% of Americans would be supportive of a gay athlete on their team, with 46% strongly supportive.

But that’s not the case worldwide. The 2018 World Cup is being held in Russia, a country that is seen as particularly homophobic. Among other legislative actions, in 2013 Russia banned “gay propoganda”, and during the ongoing competition homophobic chants have been widespread.

While football is a discipline that presents itself as neutral, universal and in a way, desexualised, it is important to examine the sport’s deep heterosexist foundations.

Coming outs are rare

In a 2009 autobiographical work, I’m the Only Gay Football Player, or I Was…, amateur-league French footballer Yohan Lemaire wrote about the unexpected cost that his coming out to his teammates had. This year he completed a documentary, Footballer and Gay: One Doesn’t Rule Out the Other, which was broadcast on the France 2 television channel.

The process Lemaire describes is similar to that found in North American contexts, with three stages. Initially there’s the fear of speaking out, followed by efforts to control all signs that might betray one’s sexuality – even to the extent of producing the appearance of heterosexuality to avoid questions – in an environment perceived as extremely hostile. Finally, after the announcement the strongest impression is generally surprise at not being excluded. The much-feared storm fails to erupt. But heterosexist culture persists, meaning that many players eventually withdraw of their own volition, no longer able to tolerate it.

Paying the price of intolerance

Is this why so few players come out? And why those who do sometimes pay a high price?

In May 1998, during that year’s World Cup competition, Justin Fashanu, once seen as one of English football’s great hopes, committed suicide. He came out eight years earlier, but his doing so had the opposite of the intended effect. He quickly became a scapegoat for fans and fellow professionals, and at Nottingham Forest, his own trainer echoed supporters’ insults, calling Fashanu “a fairy”. He was obliged to switch clubs several times.

In 1980, Justin Fashanu scored the ‘goal of the season’ in the match between his club at the time, Norwich City, and Liverpool.

After France won the World Cup that year, the French LGBT magazine Têtu highlighted the invisibility of homosexuality in professional football. As there were questions about the sexuality of France’s goalkeeper, Fabian Barthez, Têtu wondered if there might not be “one or two real gems” among France’s team.

History of modern sport

During the second half of the 19th century, sport became an independent practice, separated from other social activities. The normalisation of heterosexuality is an inherent part of that history. Engaging in sports implies the desexualisation of the human body, the neutralisation of its erotic power. Contact with other bodies is functional, and sexuality is set aside.

Collective manifestations of joy in football – after a goal is scored or a match won – are no exception to this. They are ritualised expressions that, from the perspective of those performing them, are in no way sensual.

Indeed, if football provides insight into sexuality, it is only in a roundabout way, through the performance of a cold, pragmatic virility. This virility is based on two implicit assumptions: there is no sexuality in the game, and there is no place for homosexuals.

This is also why, early on, the magazine Têtu took the opposing view of traditional football culture, hypersexualising elite footballers and trying to identify gay players in their ranks. In June 1996, French football player Eric Cantona was presented as part of a “new gay generation”, and in 2011 the magazine gave a cover treatment to former player David Ginola, outspoken for his support of gay players and efforts against homophobia.

A footballer’s body is always heterosexual

Former French football player David Ginola posed for the cover of the LGBT magazine Têtu in 2011 to express his support for gay players.
Têtu/Pure Medias

Such coverage aside, the body of a footballer remains under strict heterosexual embargo. In June 2018, US soccer player Collin Martin came out as gay, the first to do so since England’s Robbie Rogers in 2013. In France, Olivier Royer is the only professional footballer to have publicly revealed his homosexuality. But he did so in 2008 at the age of 52, long after the end of his career.

There is substantial official support for more tolerance in football, including the 2004 commitment by the top French club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), to fight homophobia. In September 2007, PSG drew up a charter against homophobia in the sport, and nine Premier League and League 2 clubs joined the effort. In England, dozens of football teams have taken part in the Stonewall Charity’s “Rainbow Laces” campaign, which combats discrimination against LGBT fans and players.

In France there was even a gay football club, Paris Foot Gay (PFG), created to raise public awareness of homophobia. However, in 2015 the organisation published a terse press release that announced the dissolution of PFG:

“In the face of remarkable indifference, reluctance on the part of institutions to actually commit, and the shame some still associate with this topic, we must face facts: we can no longer make progress in our fight against homophobia.”

Culture of homophobia

While there has been a great deal of talk and a large number of initiatives aimed against homophobia in football, real change remains elusive. This is because homophobia is perpetuated through everyday behaviour in less official channels.

For example, in 2009, Louis Nicollin, president of the Montpellier Hérault Sport Club, called Auxerre player Benoît Pedretti a “little faggot” in a TV interview. Nicollin, known for his “slip-ups”, was sanctioned and eventually apologised. Another example took place in Australia in 2014, when TV commentator Brian Taylor called AFL player Harry Taylor a “big poofter” during a broadcast. Brian Taylor’s comments were widely criticised and he too apologised.

Yet such corrosive insults are far from absent on the field. Slurs like “faggot” and “cocksucker” are repeated ad infinitum. In the 2018 World Cup, Argentina’s team was heavily fined after its fans sang homophobic songs, as was Mexico’s team. When the offending players or fans are called to order, they often claim that their insults had nothing to do with sexuality – they are simply adhering to the collective definition of what is considered negative. The sexuality of the person targeted by the insult is not truly at issue. Culturally, their heterosexuality is assumed, like that of all the other players.

Without seeming so, such slurs are a way of defining what a football player must be. A way of evoking not only the values shared within the world of football but also the sexual orientation that is supposed to embody them. That is why football leaves little or no room for narratives outside of the established “norm”.


The ConversationTranslated from the French by Alice Heathwood for Fast for Word and Leighton Kille.

Sylvain Ferez, Maître de conférence, sociologie, Université de Montpellier

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    More Articles
    Receive the latest news

    Subscribe To Our Newsletter

    THE KAYA 959 APP NOW AVAILABLE

    DOWNLOAD YOURS NOW

    Copyright Notice

    1. COPYRIGHT

    1.1 The contents of this Website, including but not limited to its compilation and arrangement, is the exclusive property of Kaya 959, alternatively the suppliers of content to Kaya 959, and accordingly remain protected by South African and International Copyright and Trademark laws.

    1.2 Any person accessing this Website, may not, save for downloading one copy for their personal computers and solely for their private and non-commercial use :

    1.2.1 Copy, disseminate, distribute, advertise, publish, adapt, modify or in any way reproduce the contents of this website for commercial purposes, unless this notice and any disclaimer attached thereto is published in its entirety, or unless the permission of Kaya 959 is obtained in writing.

    Privacy Policy

    THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT FORMS PART OF KAYA 959’S TERMS OF USE POLICY. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH ANY TERM OF THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT, YOU MUST CEASE YOUR ACCESS OF THIS WEBSITE IMMEDIATELY. 

    POPIA ActTo promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies; to introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information; to provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000; to provide for the issuing of codes of conduct; to provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making; to regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

    RECOGNISING THAT—

    • section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;
    • the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information;
    • the State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights;

    AND BEARING IN MIND THAT—

    • consonant with the constitutional values of democracy and openness, the need for economic and social progress, within the framework of the information society, requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information;

    AND IN ORDER TO—

    • regulate, in harmony with international standards, the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests,
    1. Definitions and Interpretation

    1.1.“Personal Information” means information relating to an identifiable, living, natural person and where it is applicable, identifiable, existing juristic person, including all information as defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. 

    1.2  Parliament assented to POPIA on 19 November 2013. The commencement date of section 1Part A of Chapter 5section 112 and section 113 was 11 April 2014. The commencement date of the other sections was 1 July 2020 (with the exception of section 110 and 114(4). The President of South Africa has proclaimed the POPI commencement date to be 1 July 2020.

     
    1.3. “Processing” means the creation, generation, communication, storage, destruction of personal information as more fully defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.  

    1.4. “You” or the “user” means any person who accesses and browses this website for any purpose. 

    1.4. “Website” means the website of the KAYA 959 at URL www.kaya959.co.za or such other URL as KAYA 959 may choose from time to time.   

    1. Status and Amendments

    2.1. KAYA 959 respects your privacy. This privacy policy statement sets out KAYA 959’s information gathering and dissemination practices in respect of the Website. 

    2.2. This Privacy Policy governs the processing of personal information provided to KAYA 959 through your use of the Website. 

    2.3. Please note that, due to legal and other developments, KAYA 959 may amend these terms and conditions from time to time.  

    1. Processing of Personal Information

    3.1. By providing your personal information to KAYA 959 you acknowledge that it has been collected directly from you and consent to its processing by KAYA 959. 

    3.2. Where you submit Personal Information (such as name, address, telephone number and email address) via the website (e.g. through completing any online form) the following principles are observed in the processing of that information: 

    3.2.1. KAYA 959 will only collect personal information for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which it is required. The specific purpose for which information is 
    collected will be apparent from the context in which it is requested. 

    3.2.2. KAYA 959 will only process personal information in a manner that is adequate, relevant and not excessive in the context of the purpose for which it is processed. 

    3.2.3. Personal information will only be processed for a purpose compatible with that for which it was collected, unless you have agreed to an alternative purpose in writing or KAYA 959 is permitted in terms of national legislation of general application dealing primarily with the protection of personal information. 

    3.2.4. KAYA 959 will keep records of all personal Information collected and the specific purpose for which it was collected for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.5. KAYA 959 will not disclose any personal information relating to you to any third party unless your prior written agreement is obtained or KAYA 959 is required to do so by law. 

    3.2.6. If personal information is released with your consent KAYA 959 will retain a record of the information released, the third party to which it was released, the reason for the release and the date of release, for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.7. KAYA 959 will destroy or delete any personal information that is no longer needed by KAYA 959 for the purpose it was initially collected, or subsequently processed. 

    3.3. Note that, as permitted by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002, KAYA 959 may use personal information collected to compile profiles for statistical purposes. No information contained in the profiles or statistics will be able to be linked to any specific user.    

    1. Collection of anonymous data

    4.1. KAYA 959 may use standard technology to collect information about the use of this website. This technology is not able to identify individual users but simply allows KAYA 959 to collect statistics. 

    4.2. KAYA 959 may utilise temporary or session cookies to keep track of users’ browsing habits. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive in order to keep a record of your interaction with this website and facilitate user convenience. 

    4.2.1. Cookies by themselves will not be used to identify users personally but may be used to compile identified statistics relating to use of services offered or to provide KAYA 959 with feedback on the performance of this website. 

    4.2.2. The following classes of information may be collected in respect of users who have enabled cookies: 

    4.2.2.1. The browser software used; 

    4.2.2.2. IP address; 

    4.2.2.3. Date and time of activities while visiting the website; 

    4.2.2.4. URLs of internal pages visited; and 

    4.2.2.5. referrers. 

    4.3. If you do not wish cookies to be employed to customize your interaction with this website it is possible to alter the manner in which your browser handles cookies. Please note that, if this is done, certain services on this website may not be available. 

    1. Security

    5.1. KAYA 959 takes reasonable measures to ensure the security and integrity of information submitted to or collected by this website, but cannot under any circumstances be held liable for any loss or other damage sustained by you as a result of unlawful access to or dissemination of any personal information by a third party. 

    1. Links to other websites

    6.1. KAYA 959 has no control over and accepts no responsibility for the privacy practices of any third party websites to which hyperlinks may have been provided and KAYA 959 strongly recommends that you review the privacy policy of any website you visit before using it further. 

    1. Queries

    7.1. If you have any queries about this privacy policy please contact us by emailing [email protected] 

    Competition Terms and Conditions

    • The competitions are open to all persons over the age of 18 years; except directors, partners, employees, agents, service providers, and consultants of Kaya 959, the sponsor and all its subsidiaries and its holding company, if any, as well as all spouses, life partners, parents, children, siblings, business partners and associates of such persons.

    • The outcome of the competition is subject to the decision of the judge/presenter, whose decision is final and no negotiation will be entered into thereafter. Neither Kaya 959, sponsors nor their agents will be held responsible or answerable to any dispute arising from the competition or prize awards.

    • Participants/listeners enter or take part in competitions at their own risk and Kaya 959 bears no responsibility for any loss, damage or harm suffered as a result of participation in any of Kaya 959 competition.

    • One listener is entitled to winning one prize in a period of 3 months. Kaya 959 reserves the right not to award a prize if the listener has won a prize prior during the 3 month window period. This also applies to listeners who provide family or friend’s contact details.

    • Kaya 959 reserves the right to redistribute all unclaimed prizes if not claimed after 3 months after being given away On Air or on the website.

    • Prizes are not transferable and may not be exchanged for cash.

    • Finalists will forfeit their participation in the competition if they fail to attend the draws.

    • The competition will run during the period advertised on Kaya 959; entries received outside of the competition period will not be considered for the competition draw.

    • Kaya 959 and their sponsors reserve the right to cancel, modify or amend the competition at any time if deemed necessary in their opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of their control.

    • By entering the competition, entrants agree to accept these rules and to be bound by them.