Get your kit on…
Tomorrow night is ‘Sports and Shorts’ at the Stag in Vauxhall. It’s David Overkamp’s 30th birthday too so the event is invitation only but you can download one now. I’m really looking forward to it. Lots of boys in football kit all up for a bit of fun. And we're promised a 'special night'.
Lights, camera, action…
And on a completely related subject, Channel 4 is making a documentary tomorrow in which I am taking a small part. During the day we are filming at the ‘World of Arsenal’ shop in Finsbury Park, at another football shop in North London, at a flat near the Arsenal ground and at the Arsenal ground itself. Then I’m being interviewed about why I think soccer kit is sexy – that should be easy! In the evening the crew will be following me to ‘Sports and Shorts’. All very innocent really.
I first took an interest in football when I was very young. I didn’t know I was gay then. It was just a fun thing to do with friends. Kick a ball about. I used to play in goal and, though I say so myself, was actually not bad. When I got to secondary school (age 11) I began to realise that actually I wasn’t as good as I’d previously thought. I didn’t get picked for the team anymore so lost interest. I still found football alluring though. I had a poster of the delicious Peter Osgood on my wall for Chelsea was my team. “Blue is the colour, football is the game. We’re all together and winning is our aim”. I didn’t think of it as a sexual thing – just plain old fashioned hero worship. Watching BBC1’s Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon soon told me that I was wrong though. Boy, was it sexual thing.
At the end of every Grandstand show they would do a round up of the football scores and usually interview one football team or the other - live! More often than not they would conduct the interview in the dressing room. After 90 minutes on a pitch the players are hot, sweaty and covered in mud. So the first thing they do in the dressing room is strip off and jump in the communal bath. For some reason they never seemed to have showers in these places. So the cameras would gingerly peer through the steam and mist to reveal eleven fit, young men romping around in the soapy waters of a huge bath. The interviewer would try and conduct a serious discussion where of course your attention would be firmly fixed on what was going on behind. Could you see a flash of thigh, a bit of bum or even a soapy dick? While the guy being interviewed tried to keep a straight face his team mates would be pushing, shoving, rubbing and squeezing under water to try and distract him. It was a thrilling thing to watch and often very funny. And strangely erotic too. That's when I became a football fan.
During my school years I didn’t really have much time for football. I was too busy studying and trying to learn rudimentary social skills. I was much better at the former than the latter. I eventually won an Exhibition to study at Cambridge where every sport was encouraged - except football. I played hockey, squash, badminton and tennis. My picture of Peter Osgood was replaced by one of Debbie Harry. I was too busy trying to be 'normal'. Not that that lasted long!
Shortly after leaving college I ‘came out’. It was received wisdom at the time that football was anti-gay. That is, it was viewed as aggressive, loutish and homophobic. The epitome of what was wrong with 80s Britain. Hooliganism was rife and soccer crowd violence at matches and on the streets afterwards was common.
However as the 80s drew to a close, football had started to change its image. There was more money in the game thanks to lucrative television contracts. The era of the all-seated stadium had been ushered in by a number of tragic accents at grounds. And gradually it became OK again to stand up and say “I like football”. English teams were again allowed to play in Europe after being banned for a number of years for having violent fans. Even the national team was doing better too.
By that time I was going out with an Arsenal fan, or a Gooner as he would prefer to be known. He would take me to the odd match and I have to say I was transfixed. It was unforgettable. It was magic. It was amazing. The roar of the crowd at a football match is like nothing I’d ever witnessed before. 65,000 people all watching, chanting and shouting as one. It is an almost religious experience. You could feel the emotion pouring onto the pitch from the crowd. The crowd was largely men. So you had men watching men. Men idolising men. Men loving men. There was so much testosterone sloshing around that without precautions you could have caught twins or something.
I naturally became a gooner myself and I soon realised there was quite a group of gay football fans. There was even a Gay Football Supporters Network. Somehow football was being reclaimed by those you had long not felt as though they belonged. Clubs began to acknowledge they had gay fans too. Footballers would even play up to the idea that they had gay fans. Giggs and especially Beckham started to do homoerotic calendars and overtly sexual magazine spreads. They obviously welcomed the attention. And we wanted to give it to them (missus!).
I should perhaps point out that you can be a football fan without finding the players attractive, and indeed you can find players sexy without being a fan. However most gay football fans not only appreciate the Beautiful Game but whose beauties wearing the kit too.
So there you have it, I'm a gay football fan.