Just Football (JF):
JF: I mean in light of the Keys/Gray sexism row and obviously the various taboos that it touched on within football, how do you interpret that dressing room ‘banter’ element?
GLS: It is a really difficult one because clearly there’s stuff that goes on in certain environments. Even when you go out with your mates you talk about things you wouldn’t talk about with your wives and girlfriends. You have a laugh about things. And within the dressing room there’s a lot of that because you’re together so much. There’s a lot of knocking, a lot of jokes – and you’ve got to have thick skin.
Now, my point is when does a joke become abuse or become prejudice? If we talk about for example race issues. When I was a young player there was a still a huge amount of racism within the game. And I think it’s not only up to individuals to take responsibility. I remember standing up for black players myself because it was never acceptable to me. So it’s a very complicated debate.
But clearly if you’re on an open microphone in a studio, there’s always going to be a lot of people listening and therefore many more people that you don’t know who rightly take offence to those things. But then I do think you have to be careful about how far you take that. If I make a joke – for example were you there when I made that joke with Marcel (Desailly)?
GLS: I said it’s not going to look great…they basically said to Marcel to wheel the trolley and I said well to be fair if Marcel is carrying the trolley and I’m walking behind him it doesn’t look great I don’t think, if we look back in time! Do you know what I mean though? That’s a joke, but there were a couple of people who kind of laughed awkwardly at it.
*conversation interrupted while Le Saux takes a phone call*
GLS: I think it’s an integral part of the dressing room and it’s sort of necessary that you can have a laugh with each other. When things are going well obviously the banter is always there. When things aren’t going so well you need it as well to create and maintain the atmosphere. There’s definitely a line at which that is crossed.
But then I think in certain circumstances people are very quick to jump on the bandwagon and if somebody says something that might offend one person marginally, it still gets reported. That’s a shame because our culture is built on humour and part of what challenges people is humour.
Many, many comedians talk in ways that you wouldn’t dream of talking to someone in a pub, but they’re constantly challenging us to think about how we see things. I’m like that with my own children; certain topics come up, they have a perception and we discuss it. So it’s all part of life. But if you say to people they’re not allowed to have that then it is dangerous because it all goes underground.
Particularly with England and the success that British football had dealing with racism, it’s a great example to the rest of the world and everyone involved – both black players and white players, the authorities and suchlike – should be really proud of what they’ve achieved.
But now I think the differences between people that are being illustrated are maybe more subtle. It’s not so obvious. And actually whether it’s homophobia, racial or cultural abuse those are different challenges. You can’t apply the same rules to how we all dealt with the race issue. It’s a constant battle. Ultimately football is the greatest example of multiculturalism anyway.
JF: Perhaps unwittingly, through your own intelligence and more analytical outlook to, say, the average stereotype of a footballer, you were portrayed as the poster boy for homophobic issues within football, through no fault of your own. Did it get to you?
GLS: Oh definitely. There were times when it really did. In my early years I kind of thought well what am I doing? It’s like bullying. When it sometimes comes from within your own dressing room it makes it very difficult. So I think my career was punctured by moments where I didn’t cope with it very well. I lashed out and got involved in a couple of things that I’m not proud of. But you react sometimes and that’s human nature as well.
When it does happen you have to be big enough to stand up and say ‘I was wrong, I hold my hand up’ and then you move on. But all I’ve wanted, from my point of view as a player was to be judged on my football, but football players are judged on everything now. It’s all exposed.
Over a period of time [the issue of homophobia in football] will change. It won’t change as quickly as I want it to, but hopefully when I’m an old bloke if I live that long I can look back and say what players went through to get to this point was worth it.
JF: You could argue that homophobia in football is one of the last taboos. No player has really been too open aside from Justin Fashanu. Do you think it is still impossible for a player to come out as openly homosexual in English football? And what do you think the reaction would be?
GLS: I mean the sad thing for me is, and I wrote this in my book, it’s sad that if a young gay player came to me and said “Look, I’m gay and I’m going to come out” I would probably advise them not to. But then that goes against my principles of being who you are and being proud of who you are. But yes I would probably say ‘you’re not going to have a moment’s rest.’ And that’s a sad reflection on the sport.
Ultimately any minority requires a sort of critical mass; it needs examples of people coming from different backgrounds to actually then confront the people with the prejudice. For me its not whether there are gay players in football. It’s just that you would hope an environment can be created that if there are gay players, they don’t get put off. So if a gay player wants to be a professional footballer he should have the same opportunities as any other player.
My remit isn’t so much just about homophobia, it’s about prejudice in general. Football is an inclusive sport, it’s played all over the world by all different social classes, all environments and it should be an example to other industries of harmony, not of segregation. But maybe that’s a little bit utopian!
|7-9 September 2012|
Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.
Learn more HERE.
|26-28 October 2012|
The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.
Learn more HERE.
|17-20 January 2013|
Sin City Shootout
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.
Learn more HERE.
|13-16 June 2013|
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.
Learn more HERE.