Issue Some football teams wear pink, get over it

As told by Michael Wood

The conventional thinking on Merseyside is that when Everton brought out the salmon away shirt a number of years ago it had a single purpose: to make supporters buy the home strip. By creating something that no one would want the salmon strip gained a kind of cult appeal, but the blue sold more.

Nike showed off a Bradford City away strip of a similar colour alongside a claret and amber striped home shirt and perhaps that a similar agenda might be at play. Football clubs have lost control of what supporters consider to be “the shirt” and the fact that the Bantams home shirt is distinctive and rare in the world of football heightens that problem. Wearing anything claret and amber to a game and you are wearing “the shirt” regardless of what is the current vogue.

The away shirt though is pink and the colour pink – although not this shade of it – has connotations. Pink is feminine – it will be interesting to see if the away shirt gets a significant uptake from female fans – but when worn by men it is gay. We have the Nazi to thank for starting this connotation – Jews were given yellow stars, Romany given black triangles, and homosexuals pink triangles – but the gay rights movement reclaimed the connection.

Others do not though and it is interesting – if somewhat depressing – reading comments flying around about the new garb how easily the connotation between gay (or female) and pink is drawn and how quickly that becomes negative.

“Look like girls play like girls” is one side of a line, “It could be an ‘Away Gay Day'” is simple homophobia. In the space of four months we have gone from the players not being fit to wear the shirt to the idea that shirt not being fit for the players.

Then others go much further suggesting that the players might be embarrassed to wear the away kit, perhaps even refuse to play in it, and that any supporter buying it should “take a serious look at themselves.”

Another has suggested that the pink will cause trouble at grounds. That away fans – their sexuality questioned by home supporters – will respond with fists and that the fact that eleven men are wearing bright pink will bring violence. I wish I were making up the fact that people would present such a spurious justification for violence but sadly I am not.

Sometimes football is embarrassingly anchored in a different era, other times it is dangerously so. Anyone verbalising such thoughts might be correct, but then again the same could have been said in September 1970.

Players would be embarrassed to play alongside Ces Podd who made his début that month, some would refuse to play with a black man. Perhaps people said that anyone supporting a black player needed to “take a serious look at themselves” and perhaps there was the suggestion then that it would bring violence as one set of fans felt the need to fight to empathise their right to hold onto petty, poisonous bigotry.

Footballers like Podd – and supporters who would not allow those bigotries to be justified – challenged the way that supporters thought and changed it. It was football being an instrument of social change – eventually – and it is something that should be and will be celebrated.

City have already played their first gay player but that player – and the other who followed him, and the others at every other club – decided that he would keep that to themselves. Football has an environment which suggests that gay players should keep themselves in the closest and the reaction to things like City’s pink away kit highlight the reasons for that.

In the end Ces Podd was just another footballer, this is just another away kit, and the next gay player to play for City is just another player. Consider it this way and football gets to that instrument for social change via acceptance and something other than 22 men kicking a bit of leather around the field.