Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Homophobia Is Our Biggest Problem

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Homophobia Is Our Biggest Problem

Article excerpt

IT is no longer acceptable for footballers to be racist in any way, shape or form, whether it is to towards their teammates or opposition players. Sadly the same is not true about homophobia.

Olivier Bernard has spent the last 18 months working for Show Racism The Red Card, taking part in workshops trying to help stamp out the last stubborn remnants of ingrained racism across the North East and beyond. It is a battle that has been won in football and, because of that, football can be used to educate others, but when it comes to other prejudices, football is not just part of the problem, it accentuates it.

"Racism in England isn't a big problem anymore," said Bernard, who met chief executive of Show Racism The Red Card, Ged Grebby, at a charity dinner for Wallsend Boys' Club.

"But we have other problems to tackle, and homophobia is perhaps the hardest of the lot.

"Football dressing rooms are homophobic environments, definitely. If you went into any dressing room and said you were gay, people wouldn't want to know you. They would step back and treat you as a leper. It is still a taboo. "I never knew anyone who admitted they were gay, but I think there were one or two who were. I could point my finger at a couple, definitely, but they never said anything about it. They never admitted it.

"Footballers are anti-gay, generally, they don't accept it and they don't like it. It is still a very macho world, a man's world and they don't believe there is any place for gays in the game.

"One of the people who works for Show Racism, Leroy Rosenior, he played with the only player to say he was gay, Justin Fashanu. He hanged himself.

"He says when Fashanu got in the team bath the other players would get out straight away and leave him there alone.

"That's how bad it was and I think it still is. It was when I was playing and that's not long ago. …

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