Posted originally on The Hot Stepanovs
Alarm blares it’s monstrous melody, forcing him to face 7am head on. He looks over to his partner who miraculously is still ensconced in dreams. He allows himself a few seconds to view his beloved in slumber, then his rigid discipline kicks him out of his dream state & reminds him firmly that training comes first.
He clambers out of bed & into the en-suite. Shower turned on, the torrent of hot water serves not only to clean but revitalise. The finest of cleaning products produce a good lather but the scent of jasmine & coconut remind him of last summer in the Maldives.
Shower off, then grab a towel off the rack. Dressed & straight downstairs to the kitchen to grab a quick bite, the Boss would frown on training on an emty,pty stomach but worse would be a bowl of the sugary cereals his dozing darling upstairs enjoys so much. A quick fruit smoothie & he grabs his keys to……..erm, what to take, what a joyous conundrum to have. The Lamborghini Gallardo? No, it needs a wash. The Range? No, he grabs the keys to his gun metal grey Aston & beeps the gargantuan garage doors. The beep serves as a mute ‘open sesame’ to the garage doors & they smoothly open to allow the Aston to purr through.
On the way to the training ground, making short work of the dual carriageway, he connects the latest i-gadget to a sound system that, upon first glance, would bewilder Bill Gates. Instantly, the gadget picks up on the last played tune & bangs out ” Rap God ” by Eminem. He was rather angry yesterday so Marshall Mathers latest offering served as a tap to pour out his animosity. Yesterday was awful but he wouldn’t allow the events to cast a shadow on today, he was stronger than that. He selects with the dials on the walnut finished steering wheel a playlist of dance tunes. Chemical Brothers commence the playlist with “Setting Sun.” Good choice. His foot gets a tad heavier on the brushed steel accelerator, the sign of all good music is the effect it has on your driving, so this track is a belter.
Ten minutes later, the sleek Aston approaches the training ground gates. Normally the entrance has a few loyal fans awaiting the arrival of their idols, pen in hand. Today there is a cacophony of flashes, questions. They instantly flock to the car they’ve been waiting for, like wasps angered by the destruction of their nest. He slows the car down but keeps it rolling, for all the answers he would give for now were included in the significant and news-dominating statement he released yesterday. From behind the cars tinted and extra thick windows, all he can catch of the paparazzis’ bleating is floating words that make no sense accompanied by the rest, such as ”how,” ”why,” ”feel” and the odd ”repercussions.” The owners of the bright xenon flashes & the indeterminable queries eventually catch on that this train ain’t stopping but a few overzealous idiots still attempt to catch a prize-winning photo by running behind & taking images through his rear window.
The barriers to the car park open. After the welcome committee he just endured, the barriers almost seem like warm-hearted arms opening up to receive him in the worlds tightest hug. He slaloms his way into a space & gets out. The Aston seems right at home amongst the Porsches, Ferraris & Bentleys so he presses the button that activates a plethora of safety & anti-theft programs on the car and makes his way to the changing rooms to kit up.
Along the way, he sees a smattering of team mates, the usual mutterings in the morning seem muted and awkward by comparison to other days. It would seem that the statement he issued yesterday has far-reaching implications and that the furore has settled in, leaving a residue of ungainly attitude towards him. The few he sees give a nod or a ”morning” and then beat a path to a another teammate, the safety in numbers rule still applies it seems. A few of the youngsters don’t even know where to put their eyes, eager to please the 1st teamers but scared to forge a new path & therefore risk becoming a pariah. He understands this and doesn’t push the issue further.
He enters the training facility main doors & heads straight to the changing room. Normally a chatty & sociable fellow who enjoys the fact he knows all members of staff by name & maintains a healthy working relationship with them, he notices his mood darkening by the minute & just wants to get the day started so he can head back home, the warmth & unjudging eyes of his abode never seemed so far away. He mentally grits his teeth, realises that his team mates will want to test him and colleagues will be socially inept towards him, but he hopes it’s a passing phase.
He opens the door to the changing room & upon viewing his regular berth which has his peg & spot on the bench, spies a set of giant pink, glittery fairy wings. This sets off a round of laughter amongst his team mates, a caterwauling of hilarity that sounds like it contains less humour than a Findus Lasagne contains real beef. It is cutting & the veil of humour is so thin. He realises a lot hinges on his reaction so he picks them up, turns round to the mass culprits & smiles, breaking into a socially acceptable peal of laughter. It wasn’t the reaction that a few of them were looking for as they instantly lose interest, but the majority of the others seem relieved that this situation wasn’t elevated by a hissy fit.
He kits up, laboriously so as to avoid coming out with the group. Upon exiting the changing room, he spots the Assistant Manager, a small amiable fellow who is the type to get on well with everyone. He smiles, utters a greeting and then makes his way hurriedly to the training pitches, making the excuse that lugging these bag of balls is hard work.
Upon setting foot on the training pitch, the Gaffer calls them all in to the centre.
”Now, before we start, I want to make sure that after yesterdays statement, that no-one has a problem. He still is the same fella who was playing for us last week, he hasn’t changed and I want my team to work well together. Anyone got a problem?”
No one, as expected, raises umbrance, but a few lads, the same who were looking for a reaction to the fairy wings, eyeball him, like a drunk guy at a pool hall. ”Right then, let’s get down to it then and no need to go soft on Ole’ Fairy Boy, he can take it can’t ya!” He slaps a large hand across his shoulder blades, meant to signal affection & camaraderie but this time, just for show.
During training, he gets chopped down on numerous occasions, but bites his tongue each time. That’s exactly what they’re after, he reminds himself. The whistle blows to signal time to wrap up. The sharp shrill sound had never sounded so heavenly to him before. It was time for retreat. It would take time to mend the bridges that had been burned, but his fury told him that he wasn’t the one with the flamethrower in his hand, he was still the same guy. A few of his team mates shout out moronic comments regarding the haste they must make to get to the showers before he does. It would seem that being homosexual in this day and age in the public eye was still difficult.
Can anyone say with conviction that, even in todays liberated times, that a few of the instances above would not happen at any club? I realise my speciality is embellishment with previous blogs, but I felt compelled to write something after the bravery of Thomas Hitzlsperger.
‘Der Hammer’ publicly announced his homosexuality & it set off the media alarms everywhere. He conducted himself superbly but what saddened me was that this was still such a big story. Shouldn’t this have been consigned to a few paragraphs in the back pages? With all the gay TV personalities, politicians & other roles in the public eye, it would be a fair jump to assume that for a footballer to ‘come out’ it would be a non-event. We all know, however, that this wouldn’t be the case. Whenever Thomas gets interviewed, inevitable questions will crop up regarding his homosexuality.
Completely unfair. I can completely understand why, amongst current footballers, there is a reluctance to pin their sexuality to the board.
What does it matter anyway? I absolutely adore Martin Keown and Ray Parlour. Would I care if they chose to spend their life with another man? Would it take away my memories of their fantastic efforts for the Cannon? No. It wouldn’t fucking matter if they enjoyed the sexual appetites of the Marquis de Sade, or loved to cover themselves in lizard shite whilst touching themselves to overtures of Chesney Hawkes. It’s the player that matters. If they enjoyed the works of Justin Beiber however, that may taint my love for them…..
It’s a sad state of affairs but totally understandable that players do not wish to announce to the public that they love men instead of women. It doesn’t matter what they do off the pitch, to a degree, but the reluctance to do it is a horrible truth on the game today. Look at the chants Arsene Wenger has to endure from certain fans. The same with certain players. Look at the filth directed at Graeme Le Saux. If a player came out & was currently playing, it would be inevitably worse as there still exists a xenophobic attitude amongst pockets of fans.
All I can say is this. If ever a player from my team announced he was gay, it wouldn’t colour how hard I sing for him. If a player came out from another team, it wouldn’t affect what I sing about him. It should be about the football.
Kudos to Thomas Hitzlsperger.