Soccer against homophobia

We are playing SydneyFC. And the southern end is chanting “does your boyfriend know you’re here?” It is the football tradition that certain teams are labelled.  Melbourne Victory are the ‘tards’ (Never understood why we got such a tag, maybe we were tardy in having a team in the first season?). Adelaide is the ‘inbreds’   due to an unfortunate spate of ghoulish murders that occurred there some years ago.  Sydney, I guess because of its Mardi Gras and the reputation of being liberal with issues to do with homosexuality cops homophobia.

This is not solely the preserve of Association Football.  Collingwood fans get plenty of stereotypes thrown at them.  But with Association Football is different because unlike Australian Football, that has developed within a city, Association Football is usually between teams representing different cities.

I was thinking about this when I was reading an  article in today’s Sunday Age about relationship between homosexuality and the AFL.  Al lot of things raised by the author are also very relevant to Association Football.

According to the AFL’s own figures, there were 791,178 people playing football across the country last year. It is a statistical certainty that a significant number of them are not heterosexual. (Research indicates that between 7 and 11 per cent of young Australians are either same-sex attracted, or confused about their sexual orientation).

I think about a teenage boy in Echuca who is playing for the local under 17s and is secretly struggling with his sexuality. How does he feel when he sees the response to the Milne incident? How does he feel when he hears former player Nathan Brown say on radio: ”If you can’t call someone a homo in a joking sense out on the field to put him off his game … what can you say? I mean, come on. It’s a joke.”

The same would be in Association Football, where the number of junior players is even higher than Australian Football.  And there would be plenty of young players who are struggling with sexual identity.  Considering that Association Football is also very popular with girls, this would include both genders.
As far as I know I haven’t heard the FFA, any team or fan groups taking any position on this.  But just have a look at the Facebook page of ‘Football Fans against homophobia’ to get an idea of many good initiatives in this area.
A leading role in the UK is being done by the Justin Campaign, an organisation taking its name from Justin Fashanu  the world’s first openly gay professional footballer, who took his own life.  Campaign such as the ‘Football v Homophobia Day’ is a great initiative for both fans and club to demonstrate their support.
According to the campaign’s website, Football v Homophobia day occurs around the 19th February where there is an international show of unity to stand up against homophobia and prejudice against LGBT people in football.  Round 21 of the A-League is between the 15th of February and the 17th of February.  If this is the time when Football v Homophobia day occurs, why doesn’t Australia joins in?
Australian fans tend to copy from overseas, whether they are chants, flags and even flares.  This is something that is positive, helpful and should be taken up.

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