Robert Hampton

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8th January 2014

Greatest Hitz
Posted by at 8.37pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

The English Premier League almost got an openly gay footballer today. Unfortunately, newly out of the closet Thomas Hitzlsperger – who has played for Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton, as well as representing the German national team – retired from the game in August 2013.

Still, Hitzlsperger’s announcement, in the German newspaper Die Zeit, was a welcome surprise. He said he wants to “advance the discussion about pro athletes being gay”:

He said homosexuality was mostly “simply ignored” in professional football, as many players refused to talk about the topic. Certainly, no other German footballer of his caliber has ever spoken so openly about being gay.

The comments have predictably caused a minor frenzy in the press, with tabloids and broadsheets alike leaping to cover the story, as well as the Liverpool Echo and TV outlets like the BBC, CNN and Sky Sports News. As with Tom Daley last month, a sportsman coming out is still big news, but the time will come when it genuinely is a non-issue. Personally, I’m more fascinated by the fact, revealed on his Wikipedia page, that he speaks English with “an unusual Brummie-German hybrid accent”.

The footballing world still doesn’t seem to quite know how to deal with the gay footballers issue. The FA, never particularly brilliant on diversity issues at the best of times, recently managed to appoint a man who thinks homosexuality is “detestable” to their equality board. Meanwhile, we are all looking forward to the 2022 World Cup, to be held in a country where Hitzlsperger (and Anton Hysén, and Robbie Rogers, and me) would face up to three years in jail. Hopefully, Hitzlsperger’s announcement will help to focus minds on the issue.

Generally, however, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with the great and the good and Joey Barton of the footballing world taking to Twitter to express their support.

Saying something nice on Twitter is totally different from the bantz-filled dressing room, but I hope other closeted footballers (we know they’re out there) will be encouraged by the response.

I do have one regret over this whole thing; one which my friend Scott shares:

But that’s a minor quibble. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Herr Hitzlsperger!

14th March 2013

Ball ball ball, footy footy footy

I have to love Manchester United fans.

Having spent £1000 on a season ticket, £50 on a replica strip and £250 on a Sky Sports subscription, they have, in the last week, finally cottoned on that the shareholders of their beloved football club are actually more interested in money than the game itself.

Yep, I think it’s fair to say I’ve always been mystified by football. From the reaction to Wayne Rooney leaving Everton, to the behaviour of “fans” attending a European cup game, I cannot understand anything about the game, or why a group of men kicking a ball around a field is a multi-million pound industry.

This isn’t snobbery (well, it is a bit, I suppose) – just my cold, logical mind and short attention span combining to ensure that the tension and excitement of a 90 minute football game is completely unappealing. I simply cannot get excited about “clashes” or “derbies” or anything like that. All those bombastic Sky Sports ads sound exactly like this Mitchell and Webb sketch (originally linked by me back in February 2008, and still just as funny now):

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11th January 2013

The Right Attitude
Posted by at 7.41pm | Gay | 3 responses

Matt Jarvis on the cover of AttitudeWest Ham footballer Matt Jarvis has given an in-depth interview to Attitude magazine, talking about the game’s “Last Taboo” (© every cliché-spouting journalist ever).

He’s not the first footballer to appear in Attitude. David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg both confirmed their gay-friendly credentials by featuring on previous covers, while the openly-gay Anton Hysén has also appeared in the magazine (I wrote about it back in May 2011).

In the interview, Jarvis says that he believes gay footballers should come out, saying, “it’s not something that’s going to be a shock” (not sure I’d agree with that, but he knows a lot more about the world of football than me).

He also repeats another frequently-voiced opinion: it’s not dressing room “banter” or image-conscious sponsors that a gay footballer would have to worry about, but chants and abuse from the fans in the stadium. Personally, I don’t understand why normal rules of decorum and behaviour go out of the window in a football stadium, but then again, I’m someone for whom crown-green bowls is a bit too fast-paced and exciting.

It’s great to see another footballer stand up on this issue. I do have a quibble, however: whose idea was it to put him on the cover with his shirt off? It’s certainly aesthetically pleasing (ahem), and no doubt the magazine will shift a few more copies on the basis of the pictures alone (there are more inside). I wonder, though, if it sends the wrong message: namely, that gay men are only interested in what Jarvis has to say because he’s wearing nothing but a pair of tiny shorts.

The full interview with Jarvis covers everything from his potential international career to what moisturiser he uses. It’s in the February 2013 issue of Attitude, on sale now at all good newsagents, and some really bad ones too. A digital edition is also available.

2nd December 2012

Posted by at 10.37pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Good footballer:-

Former England international Gareth Southgate believes footballers are ready to accept gay players in the dressing room.

Southgate, who is the Football Association’s Head of Elite Development, was speaking after Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard urged gay players to come out of the closet because “gay people need a hero”.

Bad footballer:-

Liverpool footballer Suso, whose full name is Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre, has described his fellow teammate Jose Enrique as “gay” after he was pictured having his teeth whitened.

Fabulous name, though.

14th September 2012

Good sport
Posted by at 8.32pm | Gay | 2 responses

Attitude Magazine October 2011The October issue of Attitude magazine plopped through my letterbox today (it’s in shops next week). They are celebrating Team GB’s success at the Olympics with a special cover featuring five British Olympians and their six-packs.

The perceived wisdom is that homosexuality and sport are mutually exclusive. This magazine feature is the latest sign that this long-held stereotype is breaking down. Elsewhere, we have rubgy star Ben Cohen running an anti-bullying charity specifically targeting LGBT youth and Liverpool FC sending a delegation to Liverpool Pride this year.

Despite these positive developments, high-profile openly gay sportspeople are few and far between. Of the 11,000 athletes at this year’s Olympics, only 22 were ‘out’ – among them, Team GB dressage gold medallist Carl Hester and Australia’s lovely Matthew Mitcham.

If the statistic that between 5% and 10% of the population is gay is correct, there must be many more athletes out there hiding their sexuality. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the percentage of gay people in sport was less than that in society as a whole. Many people’s love of sports is first nurtured in school (not me, I was a fat bastard who preferred the tranquillity of the computer room). Schools are a hostile environment for many gay teens; the changing room with its atmosphere of machismo and testosterone especially so. How many potential sports stars gave up at a young age, after deciding that the hassle and abuse wasn’t worth it?

Society is changing, and the next generation of up-and-coming athletes may find themselves in a much better position. However, reading stories like this one, about a German footballer afraid to come out because of his fears of a hostile reaction, you realise how far we still have to go.

10th April 2012


Alan Davies is in trouble after making comments about the Hillsborough disaster on a podcast. He criticised Liverpool for refusing to play matches on the anniversary of the tragedy. A clip is on YouTube here, if you want to judge his choice of words.

I don’t for a second think that Alan Davies is an offensive person. But get a man to talk about football, and for some reason common sense goes out the window and angry nonsense seems to be the default level of conversation (check out the comments on the YouTube video I linked to, which make normal YouTube comments look like the Frost/Nixon interview).

I kind of get the nation’s obsession with football, but there are lots of things I don’t get. For example, I don’t understand why rivalries get so nasty and personal. I don’t understand why Liverpool and Everton fans are such a volatile mix that police feel it necessary to enforce segregated pubs in London for the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

I don’t understand how a stall in Clayton Square Shopping Centre thinks it’s amusing to sell baby-grows that say (paraphrased) “I’ve only just been born but I hate the red shite”.

I blame Sky Sports for hyping up every match they show as being the most important event in the world ever (clip below is a David Mitchell spoof, but scarily close to the real thing).

I don’t understand. Someone explain it to me.

4th May 2011

Friends in Hysén Places
Posted by at 6.55pm | Gay | No responses

I pre-scheduled this post before I left for Tallinn on 3rd May!

Attitude Active Cover with Anton HysenThe new issue of Attitude is out now and features an interview with two newly out sportsmen – cricketer Steven Davies and footballer Anton Hysén.

Every article I’ve seen about him makes me like him even more, because Hysén consistently comes across as a thoroughly decent, down-to-earth man. He speaks eloquently in interviews. His sexuality is a non-issue: to his team-mates and his manager, he is just one of the lads. He has experienced some homophobia from the terraces, but seems to be taking it in his stride.

He was born in Liverpool while his dad Glenn was playing for LFC, and he still supports the team (in the Attitude interview he reveals that his role model is Steven Gerrard). He currently plays for a Swedish 4th division team but hopes to develop his career. And that is the great part – he is coming out at the start of career, a move that would have damaged his chances of success not long ago.

It’s so refreshing to see someone so totally at ease with himself about being gay and what that means. In the second decade of the 21st century, sexuality is no longer the barrier it once was.

The full article, which is well worth reading, can be found in the Summer 2011 issue of Attitude. It is out now at all good newsagents (and some bad ones as well, probably), or you can buy a digital copy for computer or iPad.

22nd March 2011

In which Robert pretends to know about football
Posted by at 9.59pm | Gay | 2 responses

Anton Hysén plays for the lower leagues of Swedish football, but he has made headlines around the world after coming out as gay earlier this month. Two weeks later, the subject is still a talking point.

There’s a wonderfully positive article in today’s Daily Mail, of all places (as usual, ignore the comments). I love this little nugget of information:-

He was born in Liverpool during his dad’s time at the club and is still an obsessive fan, bellowing out You’ll Never Walk Alone in tiny clubhouse showers, emerging with a Liverpool towel and speaking of his admiration for Steven Gerrard.

There’s also a brief piece on Hysén over on the BBC Sport blog, accompanied by a good, frank report where he talks about the response — generally, positive attention from all over the world, marred by the odd piece of hate mail. He seems determined to treat the whole thing as no big deal, which it shouldn’t be, really. Overall, he seems remarkably happy with his position in life.

Mind you, I would be happy too if I was standing next to this man:-

Anton Hysén and friend in the changing room

The main theme of a lot of the articles I’ve read is: when will a British player follow suit? It’s difficult to know what the reaction would be – the Guardian’s secret footballer believes that fan abuse would still be rife. On the other hand, the Professional Footballers Association has pledged to support any players who do take this big step.

It will be a brave man who decides to be the first. However, the fact that people are talking about it openly means that the taboo has been slightly broken, meaning it is much more likely that we will see a gay footballer in the English leagues within the next few years. And in a world where football players are idolised by millions, hopefully he can be a much needed positive role model.

5th February 2011

Pain in the neck
Posted by at 1.30pm | In the News | No responses

A very important news update:-

Snoods have been put under any other business for when football’s lawmakers meet on 5 March and, to the horror of some stars, may be banned.

Excellent news – footballers should wear fewer clothes, not more. Except Wayne Rooney, for whom a full burqa would be appropriate.

31st December 2010

Twenty Ten – again. Again

July brought big changes to the newspaper industry, as The Times started charging for access to its web site. This was supposed to ensure a steady income stream for the newspaper, putting it on a secure financial footing for the future. However, it also resulted in the Times being completely removed from the online chatter of the blogosphere, as its news coverage and columnists were no longer accessible to the internet hoi-polloi. Still, I’m sure this decision made sense to someone somewhere.

The Supreme Court ruled that gay people facing persecution are entitled to claim asylum in the UK. I welcomed the decision, although my blog post is curiously vague about precisely why I welcomed it. Hmm…

In other gay-related news, I reviewed, with sadness, a booklet from the US Military discussing its anti-gay don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

Elsewhere, health and safety went mad as one person suggested banning rugby scrums. I felt uncomfortable on a train full of Orange Lodge marchers and I defended the traditional sitcom from an onslaught of criticism from trendy TV reviewers.

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