Heterosexual West Ham United footballer Matt Jarvis has become only the third footballer to appear on the cover of gay magazine Attitude.
As The Independent reports, he follows in the footsteps of David Beckham and former Arsenal player Freddie Ljungberg.
The winger says he hopes that a gay footballer will feel comfortable coming out as “it’s not something that is going to be a shock.”
There are currently no players in the English league who are openly gay. Justin Fashnu was the last openly gay footballer player in this country, coming out in 1990 but suffered abuse and committed suicide eight years later.
Editor of Attitude, Matthew Todd has backed up Jarvis’s comments saying that homophobia needs to be addressed the same way as racism is in football.
Sadly though, as much as optimistic Jarvis and fellow players and fans encourage inclusiveness there is still an issue to tackle. Stonewall, the charity representing lesbians, gays and bisexuals found in a recent poll that one in four fans believe that football is an anti- gay sport.
Undoubtedly Jarvis’s stance is the right attitude but I cannot imagine that his comments will be echoed entirely on the terraces where anonymity influences attitude. It’s much easier to judge and conform to those around you when you are just one face in a crowd of many. That is the mentality that some fans have when abusing rival teams players or officials.
In addition, the media attention given to homosexuality in football only adds to the pressure of ‘the one’ player who will eventually come out. Not only would they possibly, sadly have to contend with criticism and abuse from peers but also to be known not for their footballing talents or achievements, for their work in their chosen profession; but because of their sexuality.
Therefore, the stigma attached to homosexuality in football will not disappear just because of one more person supporting the cause. Besides, it is hard to distinguish the level of homophobia in the same way as racism in football until there is a footballer who comes out.
Patrick Strudwick’s article on the guardian website offers a very interesting take on the subject: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/04/footballer-attitude-gay-players-out-closet