We need a culture shift

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My six-year-old daughter is football mad and her heroes are Neymar and Ronaldo. In the 21st century it’s not unusual for girls to choose football as their obsession and it’s natural that two of the best players in the world are her idols while I’m just proud to be her dad – who also happens to be a professional footballer.

Every school day she puts on her uniform, which comprises trousers, a shirt and tie and jumper – just like all of the boys at her school. This is her choice and we are fortunate that her school allows her to decide what she wants to wear rather than insisting she wear the traditional dress and blouse assigned to girls. They’re making an effort to have empathy with her choices, which makes me proud because it makes me feel like society is more open-minded and inclusive than it was even a decade ago.
She is still young but ultimately if she grows up to be gay or transgender, as a parent it would be fantastic to point to role models within football that she can relate to as being similar, normal and not “different”. Whether it is a phase or an identity that she will keep for the rest of her life is not important to me – I will support and be proud of my child no matter what, but it has really opened my eyes to the fact that society is becoming more accepting and tolerant of http://www.officialathleticshop.com/authentic-10-marcus-semien-jersey.html all different types of people.
This weekend the Stonewall UK Rainbow Laces campaign launches in the Football League and Premier League to promote the important message of inclusivity and respect for LGBT people within football and society also. During Sky’s The Debate show this week, I was asked if football is doing enough to back up the campaign and afterwards I asked myself the question: If I was gay would I be comfortable enough to come out?
I know the macho dressing-room culture in football, the prospect of playing in front of thousands of fans as a Womens Willie Cauley-Stein Jersey gay man or being spotlighted even in a positive way by the media for the very personal matter of my sexuality and the most honest answer I can give is that I hope so. At Brighton, I believe that my team-mates would not only be accepting of a homosexual player within their ranks but support him in any way that he feels appropriate to encourage that player to exert his human right of being himself, and rightfully be proud of that. The question has been asked repeatedly why so few professional players have felt comfortable enough to come out but instead of asking the question of the individuals, surely we should be asking the footballing industry and the culture that surrounds it to create an Grant Hill Womens Jersey environment where those players will not feel isolated or judged for their right of being their true selves within their profession.
I had an experience some years ago where I heard a manager say: “If I found out one of my players is gay, they wouldn’t be playing in my team.” It was said in a flippant, tongue-in-cheek way that could be placed under the banner of our catch-all term – banter – but if I was gay and within earshot of that remark from somebody in a position of power, it would not only hurt me to the core but make me question whether football is ready to consider me an equal and not somebody who should be treated in a different, negative way as a result of my sexuality.
I genuinely believe the answer lies within all of us – players, coaches, supporters and members of the media. We all have to question our everyday habits, language and behaviour in order to help all members of our society to be comfortable and safe whether LBGT, black, white, Christian, Muslim or any other denomination. It may be the case that banter used in the dressing room or stands is meant to be humour or harmless but we all have to take responsibility and understand that in making these remarks we could be severely damaging people in the long term and limiting their place within our society.
I feel ashamed that our men’s game, followed and revered by millions of people, does not at the moment have a role model who feels comfortable enough to be openly gay and play a sport that we all love. As players we are watched by adoring children, teenagers and adults and it would a major step http://www.officialdodgersshoponline.com/WOMENS-CODY-BELLINGER-JERSEY.html forward if our youth who are coming to terms with their own identity and sexuality have positive gay role models playing a game that they love and have someone they can be proud to relate to.
It’s my hope that very soon we will have openly gay footballers playing in all of our leagues, who are comfortable enough to be themselves and in turn be role models for the millions who adore football but for this to happen we need to do more than wear rainbow laces, we need to work towards enabling a culture where a footballer can be famous, gay and proud.



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