West Ham's Matt Jarvis in Gay 'Attitude' Interview; Will It Make an Impact?

Antony Herbert@LeeUwishWritingAnalyst IIIJanuary 11, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  Matt Jarvis of West Ham runs with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at the Boleyn Ground on October 6, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

This week Matt Jarvis becomes only the third Premier League footballer to appear on the front cover of UK's main gay magazine Attitude. 

Following in the footsteps of David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg, married West Ham winger Jarvis will offer his opinion about the idea of a current professional footballer coming out of the closet. 

Such a topic has been discussed on plenty of occasions, especially in the aftermath of other sports such as rugby and cricket welcoming their own gay players. On the women's side of the game there are also high profile stars who have already come out as gay. 

Whenever the topic is discussed there are always contributing factors brought up as to why no player has come out.

It can't help that English football's only high-profile gay player, Justin Fashanu, committed suicide just years after he revealed his sexuality to the world. 

Then you have the likes of celebrity publicist Max Clifford, who has informed on numerous occasions that he advises gay footballers to remain in the closet in order to protect their careers, according to The Independent.

Maybe, though, the interview and exposure gained from Jarvis' appearance in Attitude will get football just one step closer to the emergence of an openly gay and current player.

Beckham and Ljungberg may have appeared on the front cover before, but it is worth noting that both have a considerable backing from the gay community, due to their metrosexual traits and commercial appeal. 

It is a valid point to raise the question as to why football needs a gay footballer.

A small minority of fans would seize upon the opportunity to verbally abuse opposing fans if they knew their rivals had an openly gay player in the team. You only have to look at the treatment suffered by players like Sol Campbell and Graham Le Saux, who were only rumoured to be gay, to see how some have not moved on like other sports have.

Why would the footballing world need an openly gay player if that is the way they will be treated?

It would be great to see a complete wave of support, such as the backing that former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas received when he came out. It seems already forgotten that England cricketer Steven Davies also came out last year. The fans of both sports just do not seem to care. The emphasis has remained on how each played in their respective sport. 

Football however, is a completely different ball game (excusing the pun!).

Only Anton Hysen, a third-tier player in the Swedish football league, has come out in recent years. Whilst he has been quite vocal about the lack of impact his revelation had had on his career, Hysen is not high-profile enough to gain a decent viewpoint on what sort of reaction the footballing world would give. 

Matt Jarvis expresses the opinion that the world has moved on since the times of Justin Fashanu and would be more welcoming to a gay footballer than many would expect. 

He could be right. You only have to look at the way in which football associations now tackle racism to see how discrimination can and will be monitored and regulated.

Such strict ownership of this issue is a complete contrast to the years of abuse black footballers had to endure only a decade or so ago. Sadly, some parts of the world still live in those times. But anyone who has read Chris Kamara's autobiography will know of the progress that has been made. 

A point that should be pressed, is the impact that an openly gay footballer could have on anyone who has an interest in football.

Youngsters who could feel put off by the game, only due to their sexual orientation, could have role models to aspire to. Maybe even the small minority who would respond with abusive chants could learn a great deal about what actually is important in the game; the game itself.

You can't help but feel that once the first player takes that step, others will follow and it would get to a point where a footballer can come out and no one bats an eyelid.

As long as they can kick a ball and play a decent game it will not matter who they sleep with. Only how they play and whether they can sustain a reputation will be worthy of note. 

If you forget that Matt Jarvis had the obligatory topless shot for the front cover, the man should be commended for displaying a positive attitude towards a culture he does not identify as his own. It is through means like this that a sport like football can and will progress. 


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