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!

1st January 2014

Jumpers for Goalposts
Posted by at 9.02pm | Stage | No responses

Jumpers for Goalposts

I had the good fortune to spend a few days in London with Ian for New Year. Like good gays, we took in a play: Jumpers for Goalposts at the Bush Theatre.

The play focuses on a five-a-side football team, playing (and usually losing) in a local gay league. At its heart, though, the football is really just a backdrop to explore themes of friendship, camaraderie and young love. In particular the blossoming relationship between “assistant coach” Danny and the shy, naive Luke, who is plucked from his librarian job to play on the team. It takes Danny ages to pluck up the courage to ask Luke out, but it all goes swimmingly, until Danny’s secret is revealed and threatens to derail things before they’ve even got off the ground.

The cast is excellent, especially Jamie Samuel and Philip Duguid-McQuillan as the two young lovers. A nice additional touch comes from a recording of former BBC Radio 5 Live announcer, James Alexander Gordon, reading out the results of the weekly games between Barely Athletic and Tranny United.

I don’t think it’s too spoilery to say that the play ends with a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s a song which has emotional connotations at the best of times, but in the context of the play’s denouement I found myself choking back tears.

I glanced over at Ian and saw that he had his face in his hands. I wasn’t quite sure why so, as we walked to the Underground station, I asked him about it.

Yes, I’m still having difficulty with that whole “comprehending other people’s emotions” thing.

“Jumpers for Goalposts” ends its run on Saturday, but keep an eye out for it making a comeback in the future. I highly recommend it.