Belfast Telegraph

Why do men get so gay when it comes to football?

By Gail Walker

The John Terry saga? Gay or what? A bit like the Stormont talks, we’re now in a new timezone — JT: Day 10 and we've had to endure da torrent of locker-room man talk.

And deliciously camp has been the hysterical drivel to which we’ve been subjected.

John Terry has betrayed us ... somehow. (And if so, let’s be honest, there were already clues he wasn't a gentleman and a scholar — that 9/11 incident anybody?). Judging by the phone-ins and the column inches he also betrayed Wayne Bridge (Terry's ‘mate’), his club, his talent, the fans, bizarrely ‘the shirt’ and finally, like Lord Haw-Haw, he betrayed his country.

The irony is that the one person Terry did actually betray, his wife Toni, is barely getting a look in. She's just the collateral damage. Toni has metaphorically been put in her box and shipped off to Dubai.

At the centre of it all is Vanessa Peroncell. But her identity is less important than her role — the temptress. In these tales there has to be the femme fatale to lead the hero off the straight and narrow, the dark beauty whose sultry ways seduce the honest working bloke made good from his childhood sweetheart. They’re rustling sweetie papers in the front rows already. And she's French — need I say more?

Let's be candid. The WAG is a recent phenomenon. Mrs Bobby Charlton remains an enigma. Was there ever a Mrs Nobby Stiles? The truth is It’s A Man’s Game. The WAG is really a way for women to get a look-in to the beautiful game — and they’re alright as long as they don’t get in the way of the ball.

Terry's fall from grace wasn't betraying his wife; it was betraying the mythical bond between blokes —and not just blokes but blokes in the ‘men only' world of sport.

Would Terry have lost the England captaincy if he'd been running around with the ex-girlfriend, say, of an accountant or a doubleglazing salesman? Would we have been privy to breathless reports of Mr Arthur Snodgrass’s heartbreak?

The taboo which Terry broke is so powerful that mere facts dissolve at its touch. Terry and Perroncel began their relationship after she had split with Bridge, and after Bridge had left Chelsea for Manchester City. So he wasn't sleeping with Bridge's girlfriend and Bridge wasn't his team-mate. (He was actually betraying Toni but that doesn't count).

Facts and reality don't matter in this man's world of loyalty and liniment. Terry had betrayed ‘his mate'. He had to be stripped of the England captaincy because he had lost the confidence of ‘the lads'.

It’s all cobblers. These are millionaires who probably only speak to their team-mates through an agent and an interpreter. They’re not wee lads with their dad’s boots, hoping to get a start for Accrington Stanley.

As for the ‘captaincy’? The notion of the statesmanlike leader conducting warfare from the battlefield — a Nelson, a Wellington, a Bobby Moore — went out round about the same time as five figure weekly wages came in.

They’re all bosses. They’re all MDs. They’re all ‘Joe Soap Inc.’

This shower-room ‘treason’ would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic and, well, camp. Indeed, the Terry saga and the reaction to it, has cast many of the ‘legendary' antics of our Premier league footballers in a decidedly homoerotic light. (Not that there's anything wrong etc ...).

In the background of John Terry's playing away, there have been ‘boys only' stories of footballers ‘hunting' in packs, ‘roasting' women, sharing girlfriends like sticks of chewing gum. The common theme? Misogyny and a never to be satiated need to bond with the boys. (If they can't actually sleep with each other, they can at least watch each other having sex with women — who don’t count anyway.) Wives, girlfriends and tarts come and go but the lads go on forever.

At the end of the day, Barry, John Terry has betrayed no one but his wife Toni. We're not married to John Terry, Toni is. The ones wearing broken hearts on their sleeves, jabbering on hysterically about ‘trust', ‘loyalty', ‘duty', ‘honour' and, yes, ‘love' have been the stout (in both senses) chaps of the sports media.

Yes, it’s Valentine’s week but come on, guys, what are you trying to tell us?

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