How toxic football culture is fueling homophobia and stopping stars from opening up

Former Newcastle Jets star Andy Brennan became Australia’s first professional male footballer to open up to the public as gay [Courtesy]
Former Newcastle Jets star Andy Brennan became Australia’s first professional male footballer to open up to the public as gay while still trading in the sport.

The 26-year-old who now plays for Victorian NPL side Green Gully made the announcement on social media on Tuesday night - one which was followed by messages of support from the fans.

But despite his coming out, the sport still has a long way to go in terms of fighting homophobia, which has led to very few professional footballers across the globe coming out on the matter. Some journalists have described being a gay professional footballer as a ‘taboo while others argue saying ‘it will never change’.

Publications have also described homosexuality as a “continuing taboo” in the sport.

On the other hand, some individuals have blamed footballs “toxic” culture while others have called for education to be offered to players to fight this menace.

Here are some of the incidences that prove football’s reluctance to fight homophobia.

Richalyson being branded a homosexual by the manager of a rival team

Richarlyson Barbosa Felisbino was branded on Brazilian television homosexual by a manager of a rival team but his complaint was thrown out by a judge on grounds that "football was a virile masculine sport and not a homosexual one."

PFC Levski Sofia president abuse of a British referee

In 2006, PFC Levski Sofia President Todor Batkov called referee Mike Riley a “British Homosexual” following his controversial decision to send off his player during a UEFA cup clash but no action was taken by the football management.

Anders Lindegaard’s post on intolerance of homosexuality in football

Anders Lindegaard’s post on intolerance of homosexuality in football and the absence of openly gay stars cut football open and revealed the rot. In 2012, he wrote this in his blog post.

“As a footballer, I think first and foremost that a homosexual colleague is afraid of the reception he could get from the fans. My impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual. Homosexuality in football is a taboo subject. The atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough. The mechanisms are primitive, and it is often expressed through a classic stereotype that a real man should be brave, strong and aggressive. And it is not the image that a football fan associates with a gay person. The problem for me is that a lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserve to be compared with modern society's development in the last decades. While the rest of the world has been more liberal, civilised and less prejudiced, the world of football remains stuck in the past when it comes to tolerance. Homosexuals are in need of a hero. They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality.”

Homophobia in English football

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell joined the FA initiative against homophobia in football but later opted out, citing lack of seriousness by the organization on the matter. The August 2009 report published by a social group called Stonewall, described English football as “institutionally homophobic.” ?

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Newcastle JetsAndy BrennanVictorian NPLGreen GullyRicharlyson Barbosa FelisbinoTodor BatkovPFC Levski Sofia PresidentAnders LindegaardPeter TatchellGay rights activist Peter Tatchell