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Alex and homophobia: how great is the issue?

Paris Saint-Germain’s defender Alex has made fresh comments on homosexuality, stating that he does not think it is right for “a man to live with a man or a woman to live with a woman.”

The centre-back, who arrived at the Parc des Princes from Chelsea in January 2012 for £4.2 million, made the comments in an interview with Swedish tabloid paper Expressen, but denied that his remarks were homophobic.

In the interview, which covered a broad range of topics including his footballing roots in Brazil, Alex spoke about his strongly held religious beliefs and his faith in the bible. When asked for his personal opinion on homosexuality, the 31 year old said: “I don’t agree that it is OK that a man lives with another man and a woman with a woman. That is my view.”

This is not the first time Alex has courted controversy regarding his views on homosexuality. Earlier this year, in a January interview on French television show Jesus Football Club, he said: “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves.” The defender was widely criticised for such comments, with gay rights movements and fellow professionals quick to condemn his opinions.

In his interview with Expressen, Alex elaborated on his views, but denied that they were homophobic. “God says one should love all people for what they are,” he commented. “We love everyone but do not like those who do not stand for what the bible says. But this is not about homophobia.

“That is my view. We don’t agree. At the same time everyone is free to do what they want. Everyone has freedom. This is easy for me to explain. If you don’t agree with me and what I believe, and what the bible says, then that is up to you.”

Alex is a proudly religious man, and he conveyed the conviction he has in his faith in the Expressen interview. “God helps me and my family in everyday life,” he said. “I believe in what is written in the bible and live by it. But you also have to do your best. I believe in marriage. Wife and children, to live a family life, and to teach children to become a good man or a good woman.”

In a year in which the profile of gay footballers has been raised significantly, mainly thanks to former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger coming out publicly in early January, Alex’s comments seem particularly out of place. Hitzlsperger was praised for his bravery, but also for the role his decision would play in encouraging other, current professionals to openly come out.

Football is still rife with homophobia, but actions like Hitzlsperger’s are the sort that will make real progress in ridding the ignorance and fear that lies at the heart of much of the homophobic abuse heard on the pitch and in the stands. Sadly, it is comments like the ones Alex made in his interview with Expressen which limit such progress.

Before Hitzlsperger, the most high profile footballer to come out in recent years was Robbie Rodgers, who now plays in the MLS for LA Galaxy. Rogers has spoken a great deal about his decision to come out, and about the difficulties that gay players in the game face, and the comments like those Alex made to Expressen are precisely those which Rogers described as damaging. The inherent contradiction in Alex’s belief that everyone is free to do what they want, yet not apparently be homosexual, makes it all the more illogical, yet sadly the Brazilian defender is far from unique in his opinions.

The problem of homophobia in football still exists, and will not be changed by merely advertising campaigns featuring the world’s best players. There is a bitter irony in the fact that Paris Saint-Germain are one of the most pro-active French clubs in the battle against homophobia in football. PSG have strong ties with Paris Foot Gay, an amateur club and organisation committed to combating homophobia, and were the first Ligue 1 club to sign up to the charter PFG composed for that very function.

Alex’s comments are no doubt based on his religious beliefs, yet regardless of his insistence that he is not homophobic, to state that it is not right for a man to live with a man, or a woman with a woman, is damaging to the good work that his club, and the sport in general, is trying to do to dispel ignorance and hatred towards the gay community in football.

What Alex’s interview highlights above all is that football has a long way to go in its battle against homophobia. The fact that a professional athlete publicly coming out as gay is an important story at all stands as proof. Alex will probably be criticised again for his remarks, and rightly so, but thankfully incidents such as this are becoming more scarce. Coming out should be a non-issue, and that it is still congratulated demonstrates how much work there is still to be done. Alex may feel he is justified in his comments, but they are damaging to the progress of football accepting homosexuality in the manner it unquestionably should in the 21st century.


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