Tonight’s edition of hugely popular television show Voetbal International will be largely dedicated to a discussion about homosexuality and football, following an outcry over comments made by one panel member on Monday.
René van der Gijp, a former winger who played for PSV, Sparta and Heerenveen during his 14-year professional career, said during that broadcast football is not a sport for gay men and they are more likely to work as a hairdresser.
‘I really can’t be bothered with all that fuss about footballers who come out of the closet,’ he said. ‘Let’s just be normal about it. There are very few homosexual footballers. There may be one or two but football is not a sport for homos.’
He continued: ‘If you are gay, you are done with football. Then you go and work for a hairdresser. That is the way it is.’
Van der Gijp was responding to last weekend’s Gay Pride boat parade which included a boat manned by the Dutch football association, including national coach Louis van Gaal and former internationals Ronald de Boer and Patrick Kluivert.
Voetbal International has invited gay former professionals John de Bever and Arnold Smit to discuss the issue on Friday evening. They will join Van der Gijp and the other regular panelists.
Van der Gijp said after Monday’s broadcast that he stood by his words.
‘What annoys me is that football is being portrayed as intolerant because gay players don’t dare go public. But I believe football is the most tolerant profession there is,’ he is quoted as saying by the NRC. ‘I have never noticed that homosexuality was an issue in the changing room.’
Not all former players agree. ‘The football world is a macho world where it is easy to make jokes, especially about gays,’ former Dutch international football player Pierre van Hooijdonk told AFP at the weekend.
‘I never came across any gays in my team and I don’t know any either, but we are here today to say OK, if you are (gay) we’ll support you, we won’t discriminate,’ he said.
Tanja Ineke of the gay rights campaign group COC told the Parool: ‘The atmosphere during the programme (VI) is the same as that on the pitch and in the changing room. For young gays, that is a very scary, almost threatening environment.’
The Dutch football association issued a statement ahead of the Gay Pride rally outlining its reasons for taking part. ‘The most important thing is that everyone involved in football – from amateur clubs to the premier league – can be themselves, whatever their skin colour, religion or sexual preferences,’ the statement said.
‘This is not only in the interest of the players but of the sport in general. Someone who can be himself and who feels good can make an optimal contribution to the team’s performance.’
The KNVB launched an action plan to boost the acceptance of homosexuality in football last October.
Voetbal International is broadcast on RTL7 at 20.30 hours.
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