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Is Soccer Getting Less Homophobic?

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If there's a homophobic sport, it's soccer. From abusive fan chants to an excess of testosterone on the pitch, it's one of the least welcoming leagues for a man to come out in. When pro player Justin Fashanu came out way back in 1990, he was vilified and rejected and eventually took his own life.

But a new study by the UK's University of Staffordshire has turned up some remarkable changes in opinion. Almost one in four people coaching, playing, and refereeing in the professional game say they know a gay player. And almost 80% of fans think that openly gay players would have the same positive effect black players did in the '80s and '90s when racism was rife.

However, a third of the professionals questioned also said they thought openly gay players would face abuse from other players, and eight out of ten reckon they'd be hounded by fans. Two thirds of the 3,000 people who took part in the study say they think a major player will come out in the next five years. That'll be one brave man -- or one outed by the vicious British tabloids.

-- G. EARL

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