Senin, 30 Januari 2012

Speed inquest sheds light, BBC Fashanu doc

The mystery surrounding the death of Wales coach Gary Speed unraveled somewhat today at the official inquest.

While the coroner concluded there was not enough hard evidence to record a deliberate suicide, instead of just a cry for help presumably, we did learn that Speed and his wife had been having problems in their marriage and had rowed on the night he died.

His children were in bed and his wife had driven off following the argument and spent the night sleeping in the car when her husband failed to return her phonecalls. Shortly after 6am she saw his body hanging in the garage.

This news corrected the initial statements issued to the press, which had left everyone bewildered how someone so apparently happy and successful could end it all in a flash.

Now we know there were warning signs, not least in a text he sent the week before when he spoke of a desire to kill himself. Friend Alan Shearer confirmed Speed had mentioned his marriage was in a rocky patch, but added that it was nothing unusual in long-term relationships.

Speed's mother gave perhaps the most touching testimony, describing her son as a "glass half-empty person" and noting sadness in his eyes shortly before his death.

It is still a tragedy with no happy ending, but at least it makes more sense now. Speed's many clubs have given him moving tributes, while Wales' friendly with Costa Rica next month should be a fitting send-off.

Speeds' death came in the same week that 'A Life too Short', the tale of German international goalkeeper Robert Enke's suicide, won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. Author Ronald Reng had previously penned an entertaining chronicle of another German goalie Lars Leese's year with Barnsley in the Premier League - 'The Keeper of Dreams'.

***

If admitting depression remains somewhat of a taboo in soccer, Stan Collymore aside, coming out as gay still seems hopelessly impossible. Tonight BBC4 screened a documentary optimistically called 'Britain's Gay Footballers', where Amal Fashanu, the 23 year-old niece of the much-traveled Justin Fashanu and daughter of ex-Wimbledon legend John, asked why no gay players had come out since her late uncle more than twenty years ago.

The most poignant moment was when Amal confronted her own father about his famous ostracising of his brother. John Fashanu came close to admitting he was wrong to have done so, but could only confess he could have done more to help and at the time believed Justin had brought shame onto the family by revealing scurrilous details of his sex life to Rupert Murdoch's Sun.

Predictably, her quest for some sign that English football is about to exit the dark ages ended fruitlessly, with one voice after another expressing the mantra that gay men still cannot feel comfortable in soccer. Most players, depressingly, refused to even discuss the issue on camera with Amal, though QPR bad boy and twitterer extreme Joey Barton said he expected to see openly gay players within a decade.

A chat with self-outed Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas and a visit to Sweden where Glenn Hysen's gay son plays fourth division football with no obvious problems, confirmed we have no excuses left in the game's homeland. Homosexuality has been legal in England and Wales for 45 years after all.

The FA, UEFA and FIFA need to take more of a lead however and eradicate homophobia as passionately as they campaign against racial discrimination. The authorities' relative silence on the issue is sending the wrong message to a sport which revels in the full glare of modern publicity but in its social makeup and entrenched attitudes still inhabits a bygone age. Awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals to homophobic nations certainly did not help, but there is time for everyone to change for the better.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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