“If a player declared his homosexuality, he would be supported by all of football”

His announcement was greeted with many messages of support and congratulations of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson. Thirty-two years after striker Justin Fashanu, Jake Daniels, midfielder for Blackpool club 2and English division, became, Monday, May 16, the second British professional footballer in activity to publicly evoke his homosexuality. “Being gay, bi or queer is still a taboo in men’s football”lamented the 17-year-old, in an interview with the Sky Sport channel in the wake of his coming out.

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Jake Daniels’ speech came as a controversy swells in France around Paris-Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gueye. His presence in the stands rather than on the lawn during the match against Montpellier, Saturday May 14, ” for personal reasons “was perceived by some as a desire not to join the campaign against homophobia organized by the Professional Football League (LFP) and the associations Foot Ensemble, PanamBoyz & Girlz United and SOS Homophobia during the 37and and 38and Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 days. An absence deplored by the former striker and coach Olivier Rouyerwho was the first actor in French football to openly assume his homosexuality, in 2008, well after the end of his career.

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Jake Daniels explains that he could have waited until his retirement from sport to come out. A few months before him, another player still in exercise, the Australian Joshua Cavallo, had made his homosexuality public. Could this be a game changer?

It’s extraordinary what just happened: Jake Daniels is only a 17-year-old kid. But it shows that he is in his right mind, responsible, intelligent… What he has just done is fabulous in terms of the impact it will have on his generation.

I also liked his speech, what he explained. It’s really strong. To see the hyperpositive reactions on social networks at the level of his club, at the level of English football, I hope that it can serve as an example.

But, there is one fundamental thing to remember: coming out is not an obligation. It is simply a question of well-being.

In France, several figures of French football have not hesitated to take a stand against homophobia. There is a clear desire to move the lines. However, no player has taken the plunge…

When we see that Idrissa Gueye refuses to wear the rainbow jersey, or in any case declares that he cannot play, we say to ourselves once again that we are lagging behind. I want to say quite simply: we are idiots. And that’s a shame.

I sincerely think, and I’ve been saying it for a long time, that if there was a player who declared his homosexuality, he would be supported by all footballers, managers, sponsors.

Of course, you always have the madmen on social networks. But the whole of football would provide full support, despite some attitudes like Gueye’s this weekend. We are in 2022, mentalities are changing and, fortunately, the comments are less negative.

When the LFP’s campaign against homophobia was launched in 2019, several players refused to wear the rainbow armband. In the case of Idrissa Gueye, several voices were raised to demand a sanction. What do you think ?

His absence shocked and the reactions against him are very negative. He could have said: “I put on the jersey, but I do not share all the ideas”, for example. What I understand personally.

There is a desire from the LFP to fight against homophobia and we will achieve that in football stadiums there are no more stupid songs of the style “You are fags, motherfuckers”, etc. A movement is underway and we must be united.

I have been playing a team sport since I was 5 years old, I am 66 today. What is “co-sport”? It is tolerance, acceptance, friendliness, generosity, solidarity. I don’t want to play Care Bears, but in the field we have to help each other and understand each other, whether you’re white, black, Arab, gay or straight.

Beyond this day of fight against homophobia, are we doing enough to eradicate this scourge in football?

You have to be even more aggressive and above all be present all the time. What the LFP does at the training center level, with Yoann Lemaire [le président de l’association Foot Ensemble, qui lutte contre les discriminations dans le sport intervient auprès des jeunes joueurs] in particular, it’s great work. So it’s progressing, it’s progressing.

So of course, there are places where you are very well received. In others, it’s a bit more complicated. You just have to understand, reflect, move forward. We must continue to fight this fight.

I think the LFP is doing a fantastic job. I regret that the French Football Federation is only beginning to move – slightly – on this subject. It is time for the league and the federation to come together.

We have the impression that football is the bad student of homophobia, but the situation is not necessarily more encouraging in other sports disciplines…

The situation is not encouraging in society in general. Homophobic attacks, in the street, there are more than we imagine. There is a 22% increase in homophobic acts. So beware, it’s not just sport. We will only get out of this through education and discussion.

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The bulk of the work must focus on the new generations: it is the children who will make the difference for the future. And then, in football, when there are events like the speech of the young Englishman Jake Daniels, you have to support him, be behind him and salute his example. There will always be fools, that, we will not change anything.


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