Former Chelsea football player Graeme Le Saux jokes with a fan as he signs autographs. Photo: AFP
Former Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers and England player Graeme Le Saux has called for more to be done to support gay footballers in the English game.
There are no openly gay men in the entire professional game in England
Initially you might wonder what it has to do with him. After all, he is a straight, married man and father of two. And, strictly speaking, he isn’t even involved in football that much any more.
However, those of you who are old enough to remember Le Saux playing will recall that throughout his career there were constant rumours about his sexuality.
At lot of this was based on the fact that he wasn’t your typical footballer. He had a university education, enjoyed reading, and generally shied away from the laddish behaviour that most footballers embrace with a drunken and lecherous passion.
The insinuations reached their peak during a game between Chelsea and Liverpool when, in an effort to wind Graeme up, Robbie Fowler repeatedly bent over and pointed at his backside.
Now obviously that says more about the mental capacity of Fowler than anything else. A true intellectual midget.
But it also highlights how instinctively prejudiced football can be towards gay people. And that homophobia is as prevalent today as it was back when Le Saux was playing regularly.
At this moment in time there are no openly gay men in the entire professional game in England. And you are talking about upwards of what, 5,000 players? Possibly more.
I find it impossible to believe that every single one of those men is straight. The statistics just don’t add up. Yet, any gay players in the game are forced to keep their sexuality to themselves for fear of the consequences.
And you have to wonder how many gay men who could have gone on to be brilliant footballers have abandoned the game over fears they would be persecuted and ridiculed by a sport that should know better.
For all we know an English version of Lionel Messi could be out there. A player who is superbly talented and desperate to play football at the highest level for club and country. But he is being deterred from following his football dreams by his sexuality.
And that simply isn’t right.
The game has to do something to make sure it is all-inclusive and that people don’t shy away from football on any basis. We are trying to tackle racism, but what about sexism?
Personally speaking, I couldn’t care less about a footballer’s sexual preferences if they are capable of curling a ball into the top corner from 20 yards or not missing penalties in a major tournament.
And I’m sure most supporters, though definitely not all, would agree with me.
Worse than a disaster
Arsene Wenger last week described Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat to Milan in the Champions League as a “disaster”. But that’s a massive understatement.
This defeat wasn’t just about Arsenal’s failure to reach the next stage of the tournament. This defeat was about Arsenal’s failure, full stop.
Out of the title race, out of the Carling Cup, effectively out of Europe, and, by the time you read this, maybe out of the FA Cup as well. Not to mention the fact that they are anything but certain to make the top four this season.
I don’t want to take anything away from Wenger’s past achievements, but it has to be said that he may have now officially passed his sell-by date.
You could understand a season of abject failure if the green shoots of recovery were showing through. But the truth is they are several players short of being a great team again and Wenger seems utterly unwilling to admit it.
I would be sorry to see him leave English football. After all, he has given a great deal to the game, to Arsenal and to the Premier League as a whole.
But I think the time may have come for him to say goodbye before he does any further damage to his legacy.
And I’m not sure too many Arsenal fans would be sorry to see him go anymore either.
Weather you like it or not...
If you remember, a while back I wrote about a ‘winter break’ and gave a list of reasons why English football doesn’t need one.
One of the points I tried to make at the time was that those arguing for the break to be introduced on the basis of weather were barking up the wrong tree.
And this past couple of weeks have proved my point quite emphatically.
The snow and freezing weather that engulfed England recently has led to numerous matches being postponed and there will probably be more this weekend too.
Yet a winter break wouldn’t have solved that problem because it would have been over by now.
So, hypothetically speaking, had we had four or five weeks off over Christmas we could now be looking at a nightmarish backlog of matches.
When would the season end? July? Never?
The simple truth is nobody knows when severe cold spells are going to arrive – if they did I am sure we would be able to save lots of lives. Meteorologists may be able to tell us next week will be cold, but they will never be able to tell us what next February will be like.
That’s just the nature of the beast.
So next time you read about someone suggesting a winter break would be good for the English game on the basis of weather, just cast your mind back to last week.
That should keep them nice and quiet.
“What a fuss about who England’s captain is. Why not throw the captain’s armband high up in the air and allow the player who grabs it first to wear it? Useless strip of fabric. It’s being in the team, playing well and helping the team to win that counts.
“Regarding Fabio Capello, unlike you, I’m sorry to see him go, although it’s for the same reason: England had no hope of winning Euro 2012 with him in charge.
“Keep up the good work. I always enjoy reading your column.” Tonio Privitelli, e-mail.
“Your comments about Capello last Sunday, entitled ‘An unexpected bonus’, were not appropriate. Have a look at the comments of football legends – all have said Capello made the right decision in his sensational resignation.
“I think the shameful conditions he found himself in were the reason behind his resignation. Those who follow the world of football know he did the right thing.
“Arsene Wenger, one of the best managers in England, also said the decision taken by the FA was mistaken because the choice of the captain is down to the manager. The manager is the man who picks his team and thus, he chooses the captain.
“Premier League managers have all agreed that they are sad that Capello left four months before such an important competition, and that it is a big blow for England.
“Mr Calvert, you are the only one who said it was “an unexpected bonus”. Come on, say you don’t like Capello and that you don’t like any Italian footballer.
“I’m an Italy and Juventus supporter. I agree with Wenger, Alex Ferguson and André Villas Boas that the best person to fill the vacancy of the English national team is an English person because an English manager has the required DNA.
“The reason Juventus are doing well this season is because their manager, Antonio Conte, has the feel and spirit of Juventus. So it should be for the English national team.
“However, I can’t accept such a personal attack on Capello. It was unjustifiable. Capello is a great and successful manager. So I strongly disagree with your comments last Sunday.
“On the other hand, I would like to thank you for being so courageous to give your views in this newspaper on a weekly basis.” David Mario Fenech, e-mail.
“First of all, I would like to thank you for your weekly articles in The Sunday Times. I look forward to reading your views week in, week out.
“Obviously, I don’t agree with you every week; especially last weekend, since I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan and couldn’t really give a hoot about the England team, but generally you get your point across articulately and back up your arguments well.
“As for Cardiff City’s Europa League situation, a little Google search leads me to believe that they should be granted a Europa League spot should they win the showdown at Wembley. Unfortunately, I believe this is a moot point as we’ll probably see ‘King Kenny’ lifting the trophy at the end of this month.
“However, I retain hope that Cardiff may pull off a Birmingham City-esque shocker to deny their much-fancied opponents their first trophy in six years.” Kenneth Vella, e-mail.