Playing Straight shines a light on the dark underbelly of ‘the people’s game’
After the success of last weeks’ ‘The Only Gay In The Village‘ which was praised for portraying rural Ireland’s LGBT stories, RTE 2’s latest instalment in the Reality Bites series ‘Playing Straight’ which aired last night examines the “backdrop of homophobia“that exists within football culture.
The show is presented by radio and TV presenter Stephen Byrne, whose “first love” was football.
“My name is Stephen Byrne. I adore working as a TV and radio presenter, but my first love was football,” Byrne says, opening the show.
“But somewhere along the way, my relationship with the game changed.”
Stephen dreamed of being a football player, and then a commentator after that when he was young, his father reveals.
Until he reached his teenage years, when he “was falling out of love with the football,” Byrne’s father said.
“At the time when Stephen would have been playing football there would have been a lot of homophobic comments made on the pitch and from opposing on the opposing line.”
No Gay Players
Stephen opens the show explaining that the homophobia he experienced in the world of football negatively impacted him, causing him to go further into the closet.
“Growing up football provided a never ending backdrop of homophobia that just drove me further into the closet,” Byrne said.
“I used to always ask why are there no gay players,” he said.
“But the real question is ‘Why won’t they come out?'”
The Twitter-verse’s reactions to ‘Playing Straight’ ranged from empathy, to disgust, to determination to eradicate homophobia, to encouragement for people to come out.
One person tagged the Football Association of Ireland, encouraging them to “kick homophobia out of football”.
— John McGouran (@jpm019) November 16, 2016
Another person was surprised that homophobia in football is still taboo.
— Adrian McCarthy (@aidomc) November 16, 2016
Another praised the balance of the show, and also called Stephen Byrne’s father a “HERO!!!”
— Elaine Byrnes (@ebyrnesNUIG) November 16, 2016
The tolerance for homophobia in football is abhorrent. The culture of silence in UK in this day and age is depressing #PlayingStraight
— Darren Cleary (@RadioCleary) November 16, 2016
Coming out is tough. Not impossible. Do it. Live it. Be you. Love, life & happiness. That's all that matters. NOTHING else! #PlayingStraight
— Patrick McKee (@CllrPaddyMcKee) November 16, 2016
Are you a fan of football, but hate the homophobia that enshrouds the sport?
Let us know your experiences with homophobia in football by leaving a comment below.
The show can be watched on the RTE Player here and will be available until Friday 16 December.