Tag Archives: Euro 2012

Is it Time for Gay Soccer Players to Come Out?

26 Jun

Italian striker, Antonio Cassano, may be good at opening up defenses, but opening up his big mouth is a problem. His dumb comments on gay soccer players drew derision at Euro 2012 earlier this month. He hoped there were no “queers” on the Italian team. Later, he issued the predictable mea culpa apology, most likely written by someone skilled in the verse of damage control.

An estimated 500,000 professionals have kicked soccer balls across the globe. Tennis, rugby and other sports have witnessed gay athletes coming out. So what of soccer?

English academic, Ellis Cashmore, author of “Making Sense of Sports,” published research last year in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues. Ninety-three percent of participants in the broad survey, which included average fans and people involved professionally in British soccer, opposed homophobia.

So I asked him this week: Why have no openly gay players emerged?

“Gay players are already known by the clubs’ front offices as well as other players, perhaps game officials and agents; they observe a code of silence,” Cashmore said. “Reason? They assume it is in none of their interests to make it known if a player is gay. Other players think they will be mocked by players from other teams, front offices think it will hurt the club’s ‘brand’ if it is seen as the only club to have an openly gay player, refs and other officials have members of their own fraternity who are gay and wish to remain in-closet, and agents mistakenly assume their own commissions will take a hit if one of their clients is known to be gay. When a player comes out or is outed, they will all reflect on how wrong they were. Fans’ reactions will be surprisingly muted.”

But the reaction is unlikely to be silent at first.

“There’s no doubt that the first one or two players who come out will experience what British soccer fans call ‘stick,’ i.e. good-humored reprimands or chastisement, which can often be sharp but is essentially not malevolent,” Cashmore told me last year. “They will also encounter more serious forms of bigotry from sections of the crowd. It will be mean, nasty and wounding.”

Who wants to go to a job and be publicly berated every week? Ace German striker, Mario Gomez, in an interview last year with German magazine Bunte, said, “Being gay should no longer be a taboo topic.”

Cashmore believes the spectacle will be less cruel over time. “Once the players show their mettle, their sexual orientation will recede in importance. Fans the world over are interested principally in performance on the field of play.”


Euro 2012 – Week One View from the San Francisco Sofa

15 Jun

Go charge at windmills if you think Spain has run out of energy.  The reigning champions still possess the power to blow defensive walls apart. Their little midfield cannon, Andres Iniesta, can lob at will. Barcelona’s Xavi, can spot the ball with illumination (is he not a Robert Downey Jr. doppelganger?) And Fernando Torres may have found his mojo. Spain could be unstoppable. Woe to opponents. They finished the Irish off yesterday. Bar owners in Poland are lamenting Ireland’s exit.  Stouts abandoned.

Gone are the relics of the Italian defensive system – score a quick goal and then build a ten men defensive wall worthy of design employed by the Emperor Hadrian. Unlock the new exciting Italian way. Think bunga-bunga party at Berlusconi’s villa; thrills and spills, plenty of play, action on the wings.  It may not guarantee wins but it beats being negative.

England and France battled to a low scoring tie in a parallel to the stalemate of the 100 Year War between the nations. The Brits just love waiting for something to happen. Throwing caution to the wind has never been an English soccer trait. Not to say that they won’t progress from their group but one gets the feeling that unless the word “attack” is added to the playbook, the EXIT sign may soon be flashing. And they can sing God Save the Queen as they leave.

The Russians are coming. Unable to conquer the world through the grayness of Marxist-Leninism, the best alternative is to conquer through soccer. Hosting and then winning the World Cup in 2018 is the prize. Consider Euro 2012 as a warm up for that event. No expense will be spared by Russia’s oligarchy to build a team ruthless with ambition and drive. Watching the Russians demolish the Czechs and contain the Poles this week had an ominous nostalgia about it. There is new confidence in Russian soccer.

A twitter feed tracked soccer media references to World War II. It wouldn’t be Europe without it. Germany and Holland never really got along after the unpleasantness. They clashed Wednesday in Group B. The Germans burst the dyke with a 2-1 win. While not dead, the Dutch need other results to go their way in the last group game. They need Germany to do them a favor and beat Denmark. Ask nicely and they might…forget it!

The Irish fans sang their anthem louder than anyone has ever sung an anthem. The Irish legions belted out the Soldier’s Song, so loud ripples ran on the River Liffey in Dublin. Playing in their first major tournament in ten years, the Irish fans brought the craic and a catholic sense of fun to the proceedings, (that’s catholic without the Vatican C). Too bad their players could not convert the ball into goals.

ESPN studio coverage has sparked with soccer culture clashes. America’s Alexi Lalas is never one to hold back in tackles. He took to task Germany’s former captain turned media guy, Michael Ballack, in possession of a precise calm delivery. Redhead Lalas got pissed after Ballack announced the USA would never win anything. Later, he hacked Irish pundit Tommy Smith to shreds over Ireland’s dismal performance against Croatia. Derision flew into the old onion bag. The bickering continues.

Remember the German octopus cum oracle that saw the future during World Cup 2010? He died. Stepping up to the crystal ball as a replacement is a psychic raccoon. A zookeeper in England claims the beast has visions of England winning. Millions cry: I’ll have what the raccoon is drinking! Never make predictions in soccer.