Saturday, July 6th saw members of the Charlton family march together in this year’s pride festival. We spoke to Bhavisha Patel of the Proud Valiants to get her take on the day and what it means for both her and football.
On the day itself Bhav was delighted with the turnout from Charlton supporters who were present.
“We had a really good turnout from all the Charlton family, there was 70 people there which is our allocation.
It’s a really lovely occasion where you can get different strands of the football club together. We had Greenwich University, Proud Valiants, Charlton Invicta, ITRM… and it’s a nice way to meet people under circumstances that you wouldn’t normally, but you’ve all got that common thing in terms of the football club.
It’s a really nice day out, there was a great atmosphere. The only thing I would say is I wish our music was a bit louder, we got drowned out by the others! But other than that, it was a really nice day. I’d call it a success!
It’s almost a bit nervy until you get to the day because we had 70 tickets allocated to us and we managed to use them and you’re nervous up until the day because you’re hoping that as many people turn up as they say they will.
…I think we were really happy that we managed to use all of the tickets [this year]. It just provides a bigger impact, we were all there in our red shirts, all ages, all colours and all creeds. It was a really diverse mix of people and I think it just showcases what Charlton has to offer and the work that we do.”
This year saw the women’s World Cup be as popular as ever and social media has seen the @footballergay twitter account spark conversations across the internet. This coinciding with Pride month has been brilliant in providing a catalyst for homosexuality in men’s football according to Bhav.
“The minute that things become way more public it kind of puts that conversation to the forefront of everyone’s mind.
This year was the first time that The FA had a group marching for pride as well, so I think that’s a huge step forward for them…
I think the women’s World Cup has gone a huge way to promote homosexuality [being accepted]. I don’t think the Women’s game has ever had a problem with homosexuality and in fact I think it’s openly embraced and accepted. I think that the women’s World Cup has been so big here so now people are asking why the women’s game is so far forward and what is wrong with the Men’s game.”
Bhav continued by summarising her hopes for the potential coming out of a professional footballer.
“I think there has been a couple of key issues and the Gay footballer twitter thing has sort of summed it up. In my heart of hearts I’m hoping that it’s genuine.
...He’s talking about being a young professional playing at a good level of football. He’s spoke about talking to his club, so hopefully it’s the first step into the unknown.
Hopefully it will be accepted, and we’ll be able to move on from it.”
When asked what she think needed to happen next to help further homosexuality being accepted in football, Bhav said that education is most important.
“I think there’s a lot of education that needs to happen.
It doesn’t mean footballers have to come out, but we need to create an environment where they are comfortable enough to do it - where clubs are on board, governing bodies are on board, even at grassroots football because that’s where it really all starts.
At that grassroots level, make coaches aware that they are going to be coaching kids that are potentially gay.
I think that there are a lot of members of the LGBT community that will know fairly early on from a young age that they feel differently from their peers. We talk about all the professional players and it’s the kids that you also need to be aware of. If you have a talented footballer that leaves the sport because of homophobia then that’s something that the sport is going to potentially miss.”
Going back to the march, Bhav was encouraged by the event and hopes that the festival and the recent events will help to form an environment which accommodates people regardless of their sexual orientation.
“It was a great day out, a great atmosphere. It highlighted and showcased all the work Charlton are doing.
… we need to continue with all the good stuff that’s happening around football but take it to the next level.”