Saturday, 13 November 2010

Must be something in the German water

German football has long been overlooked by fans in other countries.

Despite its national team reaching the later stages of a plethora of international competitions, its communal approach to ownership of teams, and reasonable admissions prices, supporters don't quite rate the Bundesliga as much as its English, Spanish or Italian counterpart.

Yet, the players in the German league seem way ahead of its more "glamorous" rivals in one area - that of LGBT inclusion.

For years Hamburg-based St Pauli have proved that it not only what happens on the field which makes a club great.

Behind the banner of a skull and crossbones and with its fan base of punks, prostitutes and political activists, it helped bring the anti-racism and anti-homophobia agenda to the footballing table.

But it is not just a small corner of Germany's second largest city which is promoting equality within the world's favourite sport.

Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez has urged gay colleagues to come out.

In an interview with celebrity magazine Bunte, the German international said homosexuality was treated as a "taboo topic" in mens' sports.

"They would then play as though they'd been unshackled," the 25-year-old added.

"We have a gay Vice-Chancellor, Berlin's mayor is gay - professional football players should commit to their inclination," Gomez said.

They are refreshing words to come from such a high-profile player.

After all this is the player who is a former German soccer player of the year, a player who is still revered in Stuttgart for his goals which brought the side the Bundesliga in 2006/7.

Much like Florent Malouda, the reasons for the statement from Gomez is open to debate.

To speculate on his motives would be to simply discredit what is a positive statement to promoting equality within the world's favourite sport.

What is not speculative is that Gomez has been extremely brave in making the comments.

Despite his position as an established international, he has yet to live up to his hefty price tag for Bayern Munich.

Bavaria is also not exactly known as a place of open liberal thought so quite how the fans at the Allianz Arena will greet them will be interesting to see.

What makes them braver is that they come after international teammate Tim Wiese warned in April that any gay player who revealed his sexuality would be ridiculed by "merciless fans".

Additionally, Bayern teammate Philipp Lahm told Playboy last year that the pressure would be too great for players to be openly homosexual.

While it is clear how we feel about this, the important thing is that in Germany they are actually having a debate.

This is sort of public discourse that needs to happen in every country as if people keep on shying away from something it will never fully be tackled.

For that we praise all those professionals who are actively discussing the issue in Germany. On this issue, much like the single currency, it appears the Germans are leading the way.


1 comment:

  1. Interesting take on things as always. Agree it's important to talk about this issue but hard to know if it is the players or the media that are leading the debate. Would you talk about something if somebody did not ask the question?