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With reports of a same-sex couple, is the Premier League ready to embrace its LGBTQIA+ players?

When I was at school, the football pitch was the last place I wanted to be. It wasn’t exactly my scene—I was far removed from the macho and the masculine. The kind of language I heard from the footie lads was the same sort of behaviour reflected by the professionals on national TV.

Sure, football can be a welcoming and unifying community for many, but this isn’t often the case for those who operate outside of the binary. As a sport, it has long excluded those from LGBTQIA+ backgrounds. However, this might be about to change.

Football’s prejudiced history with gay rights

It’s not hard to trace football’s dark past with gay rights. A quick Google search presents an incident from 1990, where a sexual assault case and prejudice from teammates led openly gay footballer Justin Fashanu to suicide. Fashanu has since been inducted into the Hall of Fame for his bravery and has a foundation set up in his name to tackle prejudice in the sport.

Further research will lead you to an incident from 2002, where ex-Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari claimed that he’d have thrown a player out of the team if he’d discovered they were gay. Today, Jake Daniels is the only openly gay player in one of the Premier League’s top four divisions, and it’s not hard to see why so few choose to come out when restricted by an often highly-judgemental and sometimes toxic sport.

Football has long been a difficult space for male self-identity and respect, but the last few years have seen a great attempt at shifting its attitudes. Controversy around Qatar aside, football is trying its very best to clean up its act. Through this, we have seen a great shift in attitudes towards racism in the sport, especially among English supporters, and a shift in sexist attitudes greatly aided by the Lionesses winning the Women’s EURO. Next on the docket for this cultural unifying tradition is its attitude towards the LGBTQIA+ movement.

For the first time ever, there’s word of a same-sex couple in the Premier League

Former English footballer and current sports broadcaster Gary Lineker stated in October 2022 that he personally knows two gay Premier League players who have concealed their romantic relationship from the public. The fact that we’re even here in terms of openness is quite amazing on its own, but there’s so much more work to be done. Allegedly close to coming out, Lineker said that a debut during the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup would be “amazing” and would send an impactful and meaningful message to fans of the game around the world.

The former football pro went on to mention that the pair has come out to their teammates, and that locker room attitudes towards them haven’t changed. It’s safe to say that everyone is on their side. This is so refreshing and comforting to hear, that they are completely respected as a team—and that progress is being made.

What is important to consider is that these players should not be “witch-hunted.” This sentiment has been reaffirmed by former England player Rio Ferdinand, who has previously stated this would be the absolute worst way to combat homophobia in the sport. These players need to come out on their own terms, in their own time. Everyone’s safety must be prioritised despite the impact these grand gestures and statements could have on the game.

Debuting at the Qatar World Cup would be a scary prospect. It should be noted that all it took for England captain Harry Kane to back down from wearing the OneLove armband was to threaten him with the prospect of a yellow card—not the most courageous of protests. That being said, who knows what sort of complications they could face in Qatar as a result of publicly announcing their relationship during the tournament.

Homosexuality is punishable by prison time and sometimes even death in Qatar. The fact that the World Cup went ahead without much protest in a country violating basic human rights is shocking and leaves a lot to be said about how earnest our own countries and teams are in supporting their people.

To have such big names in the football world like Ferdinand and Lineker openly voicing their love and support for these players is a great sign that, ultimately, steps are being taken to improve the sport’s  relationship with the queer community—although I doubt we’ll see anything progress during the World Cup in Qatar. As long as there’s money greasing pockets, everyone just closes their eyes and toughs it out. As per usual.

Leaked footage of Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup tent village is giving Fyre Festival energy

As the highly anticipated—and, for some, dreaded—2022 FIFA World Cup is finalising last-minute details ahead of its kick-off on Sunday 20 November in Qatar, a leaked video has been stealing the tournament’s thunder after it rapidly gained some traction online.

The footage in question revealed the sketchy living conditions that many fans who opted for alternative options to staying at hotels will have to settle for—and we’ll be honest, it’s not looking good. So much so in fact that many netizens have been quick to compare the fan villages which were originally advertised as luxurious desert getaways to the catatonic mess that was the fraudulent Fyre Festival.

Because there weren’t enough hotel rooms to host the expected amount of fans—more than a million visitors—the event’s organising committee offered stand-in accommodation built specifically for the month-long tournament.

Among some of the villages being advertised to football enthusiasts is the Fan Village Al Khor, where a tent starts at around $424 per night—a hefty sum that was somewhat justified by the luxurious promotional images that first circulated. Other reports have stated that some of the tents could be rented for around $200 a night.

Leaked footage of Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup tent village is giving Fyre Festival energy
Leaked footage of Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup tent village is giving Fyre Festival energy

However, as the now-viral video revealed, it seems pretty clear that what was pitched to fans will not become reality for the unlucky ones who chose this accommodation option. Instead, the footage showed a village that consisted of hundreds of tents with nothing but a couple of beds and a nightstand placed in them.

The obvious lack of furniture put aside, the tents hardly seemed to hold up to the strong Qatari winds. Oh, and they were located just off highways and near aeroports, so the noise is bound to be unbearable too.

It’s not surprising then why people have linked the underwhelming accommodations to the most-talked festival experience of 2017, Fyre Festival. Advertised by famous faces including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Bieber, it was sold as a glamorous party on a deserted island.

Tickets cost up to $100,000 and guests who booked were promised luxury accommodation alongside “the best in food, art, music, and adventure” in the dreamy Bahamas. Instead, they arrived and were faced with mattresses on rain-soaked floors, meals of cheese slices on dry bread, and didn’t even have access to their own luggage.

Speaking of the recent footage, one Twitter user wrote: “This screams Fyre Festival vibes.” Another echoed: “Did they hire the Fyre Festival guy to arrange this?” “This is a disaster waiting to happen,” warned a third.

“Everyone should stay away. Looks like a good place to disappear and get sold,” concluded yet another.