LGBTQ Rep in Men’s Football
by Charlie Novak
I’m an accidental football fan – I never really intended to become a supporter, but I fell into being one nearly thirteen years ago when I met my husband in high school. It was almost impossible to avoid the sport! But it has always surprised me that there are very few openly LGBTQ+ players in men’s football. Football itself can be a fabulous game, and create great communities, and while a lot of UK clubs have LGBTQ+ fan associations there are currently no openly LGBTQ+ players in the English Premier League. It seems odd, especially when you look at the women’s game and see openly LGBTQ+ players throughout the sport; coaching top teams and winning world cups.
When I started plotting Breakaway, I knew I wanted to explore that lack of representation a little more, and consider why someone might be afraid to come out. In this novel, Christian is under a lot of pressure to be the best and he’s afraid that his football career will end if he comes out. He’s also worried about how the media and fans will react, and how it would put him under an intense spotlight and that suddenly, every conversation will be related to his sexuality – whether it’s relevant or not! Especially since being the first openly LGBTQ+ player would automatically bring a higher level of intrusion, scrutiny and pressure. Not to mention the fact that there would probably be some backlash from loud, bigoted voices in the media and online. I’d like to think that in 2019, it wouldn’t have to be a big issue, but sadly that’s probably not the case.
It’s a question that Christian has to struggle with throughout the novel – can he be both a footballing legend and openly gay man? Will he have to hide part of himself away in order to pursue his sporting ambitions? And can he bring himself to come out and risk the scrutiny?
Christian also has to deal with feelings of isolation, worrying that he can’t talk to anyone from the footballing world, just in case something happens or that person reacts negatively. Despite his family saying one thing, he finds it hard to accept that the people who have control over his career will be as understanding.
When we combine all these factors, it’s a perfect storm of reasons why a player may be unwilling to come out. Playing at a top level is hard enough, without the added pressure and intense scrutiny that comes from being in the spotlight. But I’d like to think that it will happen soon – I know I’d be cheering them on and supporting them at every turn, regardless of what club they played for.
I want us to live in a world where your gender and sexuality have no impact on what sport you play – to me, it shouldn’t be an issue whether a player is LGBTQ+ or not, and it saddens me to think that to some people, it’s still a big deal.
This is a complex issue, and this story is only one way to frame the conversation. But I did want to imagine this story having a happy ending, so I could give Christian the love he truly deserves. Breakaway is ultimately the story of recognising your fears and overcoming them – facing them down for the chance to be loved, and the chance to be happy.
After all, isn’t that what we all want? And isn’t it something we all deserve?
When your life revolves around a single goal, is there room for love?
Christian King is a rising star in English football. He’s talented, devoted, and on the road to glory. He’s following the path that’s been laid out for him since he was four, and he has no plans to deviate from it. Christian’s life revolves around a single goal—to be the best… until he runs into his first love and former best friend, David.
David Cade is just trying to survive the final year of his PhD intact, while battling long hours, unmotivated students, and the idea that academia might not be for him. But a chance encounter with his first love’s twin sister changes everything, and suddenly David is faced with the realisation that he can’t leave the past behind.
When David and Christian are drawn back together, sparks fly. Soon, Christian is forced to confront his deepest insecurities. Can they break away from their fears for a second chance at true love?
Breakaway is a 79,000 word contemporary gay romance featuring light angst, glittery bath bombs, a ginger-haired roommate/pet, shared Star Wars love, and a meddling twin sister.
Available at: Amazon
An Excerpt from Breakaway
We were still chatting after dinner, so we took our pudding into the living room, while Christian sang Monika’s praises and practically danced on the spot about being allowed pudding during the week. He’d always had a phenomenal sweet tooth, and I guessed that being a professional player was seriously at odds with his desire for sugar.
“Do you want to watch a film?” Christian asked as he flopped onto the sofa, carefully holding his bowl of lemon tart while searching for the remote.
“Sure,” I said, settling next to him and taking in the details of the room. It was light and airy, with large French doors at one end that I assumed opened up onto the garden, although it was too dark to see. The room was lit with the soft glow of lamps, which gave it a warm feel despite its size. The two sofas were scattered with a large selection of colourful cushions and throws, and in one corner a large television stood on a wooden stand. There was a unit beside it filled with Blu-rays and games as well as random knick-knacks and photos, and I was sure I could see a scattering of trophies in amongst them. I was dying to be nosey, but I also knew that wasn’t polite.
“What do you fancy? I’ve got Netflix and Amazon Prime,” Christian said. He gestured at the unit.
“Or there’s lots of Blu-rays up there. Take your pick.”
“I’ll have a look,” I answered, seizing my chance to satisfy my curiosity. I placed my bowl on the solid coffee table and meandered, over but before I could look at any of the photos, something on the floor behind the coffee table caught my eye.
It was a giant LEGO set, half assembled and spread across the carpet, the carefully numbered bags laid out neatly next to the large instruction manual.
“Holy fuck, is that the Millennium Falcon?” It was still more of a frame than anything else, but the shape was still recognisable.
“Yeah,” Christian said, his cheeks tinting again which made something funny pulse in my chest. “I, um, I like building them for fun. They’re good to take my mind off things, help me focus on being in the moment instead of dwelling on stuff. And I like Star Wars.”
“Do you have others?”
Christian nodded, chewing his lip and smiling. “I built the Death Star in the spring. That was fun, but it took hours. It’s upstairs so I don’t knock it over.”
My inner geek was dancing. I’d always loved Star Wars, and Christian and I had spent hours watching them as kids. My mum had even taken the two of us to see Revenge of the Sith for my birthday. As an adult I’d always longed for a couple of these sets, but they were so fucking expensive I’d never imagined getting one. I mean, this Millennium Falcon kit was worth nearly seven hundred quid.
“Can—can we build it now?” I asked, trying not to hold my breath.
“Really? I mean, you’d be interested in that?” There was a note of astonishment in Christian’s voice, while mine was barely controlled excitement.
“Of course! I’ve always wanted to get my hands on this.”
“Okay,” Christian said with a nod. “Let’s do it. Do you want to put a film on in the background? Maybe The Force Awakens? I haven’t seen it in a while.”
Ten minutes later we were sitting on the floor, the opening credits of the film playing in the background while Christian talked me through what he’d done so far. It was obvious that he took his building seriously, and I had to admit it was adorable. After my pep talk, he handed me a bag and showed me the instructions he wanted me to follow.
“You know, I’m sure there’s a terrible joke about inserting things somewhere in there,” I said, watching the way Christian’s face flushed as my words filtered through.
“Probably,” he added. “But I’ve never thought of it.”
“Me neither, I’m not good with words.”
“I find that hard to believe—you’re doing your PhD.”
“Nah, that’s all smoke and mirrors,” I joked.
“So, tell me more about your work,” Christian said, picking up his own pieces. “I don’t know much about academic stuff beyond what Lily’s told me.”
I smiled, opened my bag, and began talking. And I didn’t stop. Well, not until the early hours of the morning. By that time, we’d covered my degree, Lily, our mums, the Champions League, and the new Star Wars and Marvel films. The only thing we’d avoided discussing was our relationships, but I figured that was because neither of us had much to tell. Plus, talking about new partners with exes is one of those weird grey areas I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to avoid.
With every word, I could feel Christian slotting back into my life like he’d never left, but at the same time, this wasn’t the same Christian as before. It was a new version—older, smarter, and sweeter. He was driven and determined and had a desire to know as much as he could and actually seemed interested when I spent another hour talking about my work. He talked non-stop about how proud he was of Lily and how much he loved her, and he was so endearingly serious and charming that I couldn’t help but be bowled over by him. And he was so disarmingly handsome that every time he smiled or chewed on his perfect, pink lips, the hot ball of desire in my chest burnt hotter and hotter until it felt like there was a supernova inside me.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt this way about anyone.
It had probably been six years.
About Charlie Novak
Charlie lives in England with her husband and a severe lack of dogs. She spends most of her days wrangling other people’s words in her day job and then trying to force her own onto the page in the evening.
She loves cute stories with a healthy dollop of angst, even more fluff, plenty of delicious sex, and happily ever afters – because the world needs more of them. Charlie also believes that love comes in all shapes and sizes.
Charlie has very little spare time, but what she does have she fills with cooking, pole-dancing, reading and ice-hockey. She also thinks that everyone should have at least one favourite dinosaur…
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