The co-chair of the Proud Lilywhites is dreaming of a day when a male professional footballer coming out as gay is not headline news.
There has yet to be a mainstream male English player who has come out while playing and Rio Ferdinand recently said that a lawyer had advised a player not to reveal himself as gay, such would have been the media frenzy.
Chris Paouros, who co-founded Tottenham’s official LGBTQ+ Supporters Association, believes the intense focus on a player’s sexuality would cause a “circus” and instead says the narrative should be on those within the game that are already out.
“I always think that thinking about professional male players coming out is a bit of a red herring,” she told the PA news agency.
“Because I think there are loads of people who are out in football. There are many professional women players who are openly gay.
“There are people who’ve got all sorts of different roles in football clubs, journalists, coaches, referees, people working in our governing bodies, there are loads of our people in football and we should be talking about their stories as well, to get that normalisation.
“I think this is not helpful. I think there’s too much speculation around that and it kind of adds fuel to it, the potential of it being a circus.
“I think that’s the problem. In my dreams there are like 10 professional players from across the leagues, who are all gay men and they all come out at once, and then it’s really difficult to figure out who you’re going to really focus on, and maybe they can just get on with that.
“But that’s not going to happen. That’s why I think we can focus on those who are out in football, and have some really good positive conversations.”
Undoubtedly the machismo environment of football – whether it be the banter flying around in the dressing room or the tribalism in the terraces – will have had an effect on players choosing not to reveal their sexuality.
For some young males that decision may have meant they walked away from football and Paouros believes talent will have slipped away over the years.
“A couple of things always make me wonder, have we lost talent over the years?” she added.
“For young men who are brilliant footballers or who realise they’re gay and then think ‘I can’t be in a football environment’.
“Because they’re not their authentic selves? The margins are really small and the professional game, because they’re not their authentic selves, they can’t quite make that next step?
“Are there men in the professional game who are sort of hiding themselves? Maybe. Does that stop them from really fulfilling their potential? Maybe.
“Are there players that never quite made it because they’re gay? I don’t know.”
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