The poll, led by sports psychologist Anthony Mette for the amateur football club ‘Paris Foot Gay,’ found that 41 percent of professional players from France’s top two football divisions appeared to hold homophobic views.
Among the 121 professional footballers, drawn from 13 clubs, 63 percent said they would be surprised if a teammate revealed he was gay, “because it’s a taboo subject.”
The authors of the study were especially “alarmed” by homophobia among clubs' youth academy players with as many as half of youth team players expressing hostility towards gay people, the survey found.
“As things are now, it seems almost impossible that a young gay man could come out in the context of a youth academy,” the report concluded.
The survey, the first of its kind in France, also found that more than half of youth players would be scared to shower with a teammate they knew was gay, and that 22 percent “would prefer if he left the team"..
Almost a quarter of youth players confessed they would be worried “the team’s performance would be worse” with a gay player among their ranks.
Paris Foot Gay is an amateur football club, founded in 2003, which competes in a local league and engages in activism to remove homophobia from French football. It has a close relationship with the city’s professional team, Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
In 2009 a team made up of Muslim men caused outrage when they refused to play against the gay club, citing their religious convictions. The team was permanently banned from its local league.
The authors of the report, however, saw encouraging signs in some of the nuances of players’ responses.
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“We have to distinguish between opinions towards homosexuality in general, and [the question of] ‘what I would think’ about a gay teammate. A majority of [professional] footballers would be open to the idea of a teammate having a gay relationship,” the researchers told French daily 20 Minutes.
The survey comes after a number of high-profile attacks on gay men in France, which are believed to have been driven by homophobia.
Earlier this month, president of gay rights group SOS Homophobie, Elizabeth Ronzier, told The Local “We have seen a thirty percent rise in the number of homophobic incidents since October,” a spike which she attributed to vocal opposition the French government’s bill to legalize gay marriage, which was adopted last Tuesday.