THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc302 Cameron Carter analyses the different reactions to football's many controversies

Just as there must statistically be teatime programmes on the BBC that do not feature Alex Jones or John Barrowman, so we must assume that there are gay footballers out there somewhere in the universe. In Britain's Gay Footballers (BBC3, January 30), Amal Fashanu, niece of Justin, daughter of John, quested for a gay man among the 4,000 professional players registered in the UK.

Her film – with the disingenuously optimistic agenda of actually finding an out gay British player – developed along two distinct lines: Amal pictured extensively in pensive mood, opening a letter of unavailability from a high-profile current player or travelling to meet a low-profile ex-player; and Amal discussing homosexuality with her father.

Within this second strand, there were two distinct stages: before Amal sees for the first time a documentary made just after her uncle's suicide in 1998, in which John described his reluctance to take a shower with anyone like his brother – and after.

Before, in a formal interview in a smart restaurant, John explains to her, with his trademark combination of polished delivery and clumsy articulation: "It was never for two men to do a slide tackle and then go back and kiss each other." The second meeting takes place in his living room, with his daughter distressed at his comments in the 1998 documentary.

In trying to comfort her and defend himself at the same time, John first produces insufferable hypocrisy with a side-order of misplaced levity  ("Oh who gives a hoot if you are gay or not?!"), before moving onto anger at the "scandals" with which his brother tarnished the family name. Finally, he becomes almost human with an acceptance that he made mistakes (although even here he still uses the impersonal form "mistakes were made"), Amal's tears apparently eroding her father's unlovable natural defences.

After being granted an interview with the casually violent Renaissance Man, Joey Barton, Amal journeys to a foreign land to discover the world's only openly gay player. There must have been a temptation, on finding Anton Hysen well and thriving in Sweden, to capture him for exhibition in town halls across the British Isles. Apart from the obvious benefits to the gay community of British gay players following Hysen's example, it would also be nice for Justin Fashanu to be remembered as an extremely good player, rather than our only gay one.

Roy Keane's integration into the world of television punditry from semi-feral beginnings continues only gradually. At half-time in Arsenal's FA Cup game at Sunderland, he appeared to take Arsenal's poor performance as a personal affront. Lit by internal fires, Keane clearly did not know where to start, but decided on the fact that six of Arsenal had emerged from the tunnel wearing gloves. Gloves on a man offend Keane.

Other things that offend him include gimmicky-shaped breakfast cereals, be-bop jazz and trees with leaves. It is probable that he views shin-pads as foppish. From Adrian Chiles's comments both during this game and the coverage of Stevenage v Tottenham Hotspur the following day, a television studio containing an outraged Keane becomes a very small place, very quickly.

The Luis Suárez Affair dragged on over February. In a historic moment for the BBC, Jonathan Pearce's yelp of surprise on Match of the Day (BBC1, February 11), when Suárez snubbed Patrice Evra's outstretched hand, saw him become the first commentator to reach full-throttle before a ball has been kicked. The Suárez/Evra non-handshake (not to be confused with the Wayne Bridge/John Terry non-handshake, which had been agreed before the game) began a week of intense debate in the media. Some  wanted to "draw a line" under the affair (Gordon Taylor, hauled by BBC News from his Sunday dinner, was in this group). Others like Matthew Wright wanted us all to "move on", while a splinter group headed by Lee Dixon wanted the matter "put to bed".

As often happens in these matters, the sectarianism became ever more complex – a caller to The Wright Stuff suggested "putting it to bed and moving on". In the event, it was an American Customer Services exercise by the Fenway Sports Group that helped us all draw a line under the bed by issuing a sincere apology on behalf of everyone who had not apologised. Perhaps we can all now wake up and smell the coffee.

From WSC 302 April 2012

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