Meanwhile, in Australia, Adelaide United player Antony Golec was suspended for one game, given a two match suspended ban, and forced to undergo counselling for directing homophobic abuse at an official over the micro-blogging site.
Have the FA got their approach to this problem right? Is it even a problem at all? Fill in the poll below and let us know what you think in the comments.
Former England International Sol Campbell announced his retirement yesterday due to injury after a 20-year career playing for Tottenham, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Notts County and Portsmouth.
Although the married footballer constantly denied rumours surrounding his sexuality, this did not stop Campbell being the target of homophobic abuse – an issue previously covered by GSB. In fact, his brother John was jailed in 2005 for assaulting a man who questioned the 37 year-old’s sexuality.
Down to ten men after goalkeeper Jens Lehman was sent off early in the first half, it seemed only a matter of time before a Barcelona side featuring the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel E’to tore Arsenal apart in the 2006 Champions League Final. Campbell was charged with marshalling the Gunners’ defence to keep Frank Rijkaard’s men at bay.
A rare attack on the Barcelona goal resulted in a free-kick in a dangerous area for the men from north London. Thierry Henry whipped the ball across the box, and Sol’s head did the rest, putting his side ahead against the run of play. Two late Barca goals broke Gunners’ hearts, but for a moment Campbell had Arsenal fans believing.
Sol made his England debut in May 1996, as a substitute in the friendly against Hungary. A member of Terry Venables’ Euro 96 squad, Campbell was also selected for international duty at France 98, Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004 and Germany 2006 – becoming the first England player to be picked for six consecutive major international tournaments.
Sol’s defining moment in an England shirt came in the 1998 World Cup second-round match against Argentina. After David Beckham’s sending off England were forced to defend with ten men. But in injury time, Campbell headed what he thought was the winning goal, celebrated like he had won the World Cup, only to see his effort had been disallowed and Argentina had restarted play quickly and were attacking David Seaman’s goal. England later went out on penalties – but those 30 seconds summed up perfectly the experience of being an England fan.
Four years later, Campbell got his one and only England goal – netting in England’s 1-1 draw with Sweden in the 2002 World Cup. He was named in Fifa’s team of the tournament – recognising the best performances at the finals.
Captaining Portsmouth to FA Cup glory
After leaving Arsenal in 2006, Campbell signed a two-year deal with Portsmouth, then managed by Harry Redknapp. His finest hour in a Pompey shirt came when he captained the side in their FA Cup Final Victory over Cardiff in 2008, bringing european football, and matches against the likes of AC Milan to Fratton Park for the first time.
In the 2003/2004 season, Arsenal won the Premier League title. Their record: played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost 0 – as they became the first team since the league was established in 1992 to go an entire season unbeaten. The Gunners owed a huge debt to the centre-back partnership Campbell established with Kolo Toure as they conceded just 26 goals all season. For his efforts, Campbell was named in the PFA team of the year.
Ignoring the abuse
In Summer 2001, Spurs captain Sol Campbell announced his decision to leave White Hart Lane at the end of his contract, making the short journey to Highbury to sign for north London rivals Arsenal on a free transfer. Campbell’s decision incensed Tottenham fans who labelled him a “judas”. The two clubs’ fixture at White Hart Lane became one of the early talking points of the 2001-2002 season. Campbell was booed by Tottenham fans from the moment he set foot on the pitch to warm-up, to the final whistle. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, but Campbell’s decision to join the Gunners was vindicated as they went on to win a League and FA Cup double in his first season at the club.
While the question of racism is currently the hot-topic in English football, Australian footballer Antony Golec has brought the question of homophobia in sport into focus in his native country.
The Adelaide United defender looks set to face stern punishment from both his club and Football Federation Australia (FFA) after he broadcast a homophobic outburst at a referee using Twitter on Saturday night.
Adelaide United defender Antony Golec is in trouble for using insulting a match official using homophobic language. Photo: Camw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Camw)
The Australian under-20 international, described Ben Williams as “the worst referee ever” while he watched a match between Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar on television. However, this was not enough for the 21 year-old as he followed this post a homophobic slurs directed towards the official, who sent off two Melbourne players in the first half.
The defender, who can operate at centre-half or left back, has since deleted his account from the micro-blogging site. Golec’s attempt to explain away his outburst by claiming that his message wasn’t meant for public broadcast, but was instead merely intended as a private message to be read only by his brother.
His excuse has not washed with his employers or the the game’s authorities, as both have pledged to look into the incident. In a statement, Adelaide United said: “The club is extremely disappointed that Antony has placed himself in this position. He is sincerely apologetic for the incident.”
“He will be heavily censured and required to attend educational courses as the club and PFA see appropriate to reinforce the mutual rejection of inappropriate use of demeaning language towards not only match officials but all members of our community.”
An FFA spokesman told The Australian that they will be investigating the incident, adding: “Whatever Adelaide do, we will still be looking at it and reserve the right to take whatever action we think is necessary. We will not be guided by what the club does.”
Golec, who signed for United in September, has yet to appear in the A-League for his new club, and his spell on the sidelines looks to continue as a suspension, sanctioned either by the club or the FFA, now seems inevitable.
There is much for the footballing authorities in England to learn from this incident. It could have been easy enough for Adelaide United and the FFA to brush off Golec’s remarks, or accept his excuse that the message was merely meant for his brother. Instead they recognised the harm that was caused by his words – not just to the official concerned, not just to their fans, but to the entire community as whole. Their immediate and clear response sends a clear message to A-League players that such behaviour is not tolerated.
Offensive chanting at football matches is still thought of by some as “banter”, over 18 months since the FA pulled the power on a video meant to address the problems of homophobia in football.
The video, which you can watch above, transplants the aggressive homophobic insults sometimes heard at matches to the everyday world. It was pulled last February, amid fears that it was too offensive.
It was not the film the FA wanted to make. Peter Tatchell, of the Guardian, describes the original vision to make something “hip and fun”, featuring big name footballers speaking out against homophobia.
The original plan was to launch the film at Wembley, and to play it live at matches and on TV. In the end, it began its life on YouTube, marketed as a “viral” video. The film currently has 69,547 views on YouTube; compare this with Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’, which scores 3,922,648. It made a ripple, not a wave.
In July this year charges were dropped against two Blackburn Rover fans accused of homophobic chanting at a game in January.
Mindsets have arguably not changed much since 2008, when Tottenham supporters were prosecuted for shouting offensive chants attacking Sol Campbell.
The Tottenham chants reportedly included:
“He’s big, he’s black. He takes it up his crack. Sol Campbell, Sol Campbell.”
“Sol, Sol, wherever you may be / You’re on the verge of lunacy / And we don’t give a f*ck if you’re hanging from a tree / You Judas c*nt with HIV.”
The men who yelled these were prosecuted. Yet the attitudes towards such behaviour does not seem to have progressed.
A post in July this year on an online football forum reads: “I remember those spurs fans getting done for chanting at Sol Campbell at pompey, gay chants. What is wrong with that it’s banter”.
He went on to say “Only thing I do not agree with is racist chanting.” Proof that whilst the FA have done an excellent job of combating racism, the same cannot be said for homophobia.
The law cannot stamp out homophobia, only a change in attitudes can. Every 16th person in this country is gay, according to official Government figures released in 2005. Yet there is not a single openly gay player in the professional leagues of British football.
John Amaechi called the FA’s video “offensive,” “incendiary,” and “vulgar”. But perhaps, sometimes, it’s a case of fighting fire with fire.