Homophobia in Football
Rhys Chapman’s “Wonderkid” looks at homophobia in football (that’s soccer to Americans). After earning a dream move to a London Premier League club, Wonderkid should be on top of the world but he faces the reality of callous friends, a hostile changing room, and vitriol-filled messages on social media and having to deal with himself. The film highlights the key issue of sexuality as an issue when it should not be. I recently read that 72% of football fans say they have heard homophobic abuse while watching live sports in the past five years. Yet, at the same time, nearly two thirds of people say more should be done to make LGBT people feel accepted in sport. Nearly 90% of supporters say they would be either proud or neutral if their favorite player came out as gay.’
This short British film explores the ultimate sporting taboo— coming out. We see the raw emotions of a talented footballer who just wants to give his all to the game but who is held back from displaying his full potential by not being able to “be himself” and this indeed affects him and those around him. His agent Johnny is aware of his client’s desire to come out to one and all, but he is also aware of the ramifications such sexual openness could have on a series of lucrative endorsements and media deals (and moreover, his cut therein). The result is a standoff that finds wonderkid holed up in his hotel room longing to break free, only for promises of coming out from his agent, forever accompanied with the line – “when the time is right”. The problem is that is the time is never right.
Chris Mason is brilliant as Wonderkid. The film continually asks the question of why should one’s sexuality be an issue? We know the answer but it seems to not work for football. We see the inner turmoil of a young man yearning to be his sexual self, yet too afraid to be seen in a gay bar. He is sick of the ingrained homophobic comments both from the stands and from his teammates and “playing it straight” drags him down. We know that something clearly has to give and give it does, even if the key act itself is not shown, and we hear it via a voiceover. As the film comes to a close, we can only wonder how many wonderkids feel the same way but do not act.