Monday, 27 May 2013

Whats more important ?


The football world is on overdrive following Bayern Munich’s Champions league win on Saturday. Everyone is talking about a european domination by the Bavarians. Journalists talking about Pep Guardiola coming on board next season and the prospect of an even better team than the one we witnessed on the weekend. The other news making the football headlines is the transfer spree of Monaco and the imminent arrival of Falcao to the French club. Also, the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini to Man City and Mourinho’s imminent arrival to Chelsea are other popular topics you will find online and in newspapers at the moment. These are the stories that all football fans want to read. I know this because I’m a huge fan and there is nothing better than reading about possible transfer arrivals at your club or what mega star is going where. Watching the biggest game in football, the Champion’s league, it’s what all football fans want. But there is another story that is actually more important than any of this. This story is more important than anything else in football this year. This story is more important than any signing or stadium build. It’s the most important story in sport

On Sunday the 26th of March in Los Angeles, 77 minutes gone in the game, Robbie Rodgers came on as a sub for LA Galaxy against the Seattle Sounders. What’s the big deal and how does this compare to the Champions league final, I hear you say?  Well, Rodgers is the firstly openly gay athlete in American sport history and only the second man to openly admit his sexuality in football since Justin Fashanu back in in 1990. That’s what the big deal is.

Rodgers a 25 year old LA native, had a small spell with Leeds United and Stevenage and after a number of injuries during his time in England, he decided to retire and reveal is sexuality or come out, at the same time. He did this through his blog and opened the article with “For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show who I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams”.


 







Rodgers revealing his sexuality, or coming out as they say, is old news. It happened back in February but on Sunday night, stepping onto the field with a thunderous applause from the fans, Rodgers not alone made history but he also did something more important for football than a Bayern Munich win or Monaco’s money.

If you are not aware, homosexuality in football is not talked about, addressed, or to put it bluntly, accepted. The title “The beautiful game” is a cloak of lies that covers the ignorant caveman like world of football today. As a footballer and now manager, I know too well the talk in the changing room after the game or the jokes between team mates when they do something wrong or not acceptable. Like if a player goes down from a tackle the comment that follows usually goes like “Ah come on don’t be gay, I barely touched you get up”. Now, I know most of the time this goes unnoticed, it’s just a passing footballing comment. But for a player like Rodgers, hearing this on a daily basis from managers and players must have been horrendous. Rodgers retirement and coming out was not in any of the papers I read or apps I look at on my phone for football. It wasn’t on any of the shows I watch or mentioned on any of the games. Why not? Why was it not celebrated that a 25 year old man, who is a professional sportsman has decided to tell the world his sexuality and try to break down the homophobic wall that is in football today. Why has it not got more media attention? Maybe I’m wrong and it did get the adequate coverage but not in the sources I read or watch.

 

Many people talk about bravery in football. How it’s brave to step up and take a penalty in a crunch game. How it’s brave for a coach to make a sub at a certain period of the game or how it’s brave for a club to spend a sum of money on a transfer target. None of those things are brave. What Rodgers has done is brave. What Rodgers is doing now is brave and if he continues to play at a pro level, not only will it be brave but it will be a milestone in the history of football. His coming out as a gay footballer will hopefully open the door for other players to do the same. Landon Donavan, Rodgers team mate and American football legend, had this to say about Rodgers “Everybody wants it to go a certain way on the filed for him but in my opinion, it’s already a success whether he plays one minute or a thousand minutes”. There are without doubt more gay footballers waiting to come out. There are 20 teams in the Premier league. Each team has a squad of around 25 players. That’s 500 players in the Premier league alone and supposedly, all 500 are straight! I don’t believe that for one second. So imagine the players all over the world and we only have two openly gay players in the history of the game

In 2013 you would think that being homosexual in sports wouldn’t be a big deal. But unfortunately it is. Football is seen as a world healing game. It brings all walks of life together with the language of football. It allows different races and cultures to come together. It brings fans from different backgrounds to the one arena singing in harmony. What about being a safer environment for players to be comfortable with who they are and not afraid of the impacts of being truthful and being honest about their sexual preference.

The talk now after the Champions league win for Bayern is what impact their win will have on the future of football. I think what Rodgers is doing will have a far bigger impact on the future of football than Bayerns win or any win.

Let’s hope that Rodgers bravery and courage will be an important step for the game becoming as beautiful as it says it claims to be.