Diego Maradona Is Not Gay

by Rabih Alameddine | July 2, 2010

The once-great Maradona wants everyone in the world to know, just in case there was any doubt, that he’s not gay. No sirree, he certainly is not. He likes women. He really likes women. He’s fucking pretty Veronica.

I received an email from Daniel Alarcon this morning asking whether I planned to write anything about his dingbatness’ “I’m not gay” press conference, because if I wasn’t, he intended to. I had no idea what he was talking about, and so I watched the press conference—I watched the 55 second clip before I had my morning coffee. A mistake.

I was furious—smoke coming out of my ears, brain rotating on its axis furious. I began to sharpen the lightning bolts, wishing to forge a thunderous reply. However, my rage, like most feelings at my age, was rather fleeting. I no longer have the inclination for thunderous anything, let alone the unbridled youthful fury needed to stoke a forge.

In non-purple prose: staying angry requires so much effort.

I watched the video a few times, and began to feel a little sorry for Diego. First, what kind of question was that? Think about this for a second. A reporter from the once-esteemed BBC asking, “Can love help win the World Cup?”

Say what? Kissing and hugging players? Who does that?

Note Maradona’s reaction to the idiotic question: the sudden wide eyes, the shocked eyebrow, before he uttered the imbecilic answer. He was terrified that anyone would think he wasn’t a man’s man.

Look, on his best day, fleet-footed Maradona is not the most mentally nimble of humans. I will not take the low road and use the adjective coke-addled for his brain. No, I won’t. He misunderstood the question, or it was mistranslated, or maybe he did understand it and chose to tackle the underlying question head-on. Maybe he has street smarts, but we can safely say he’s rash and, to put it mildly, not terribly thoughtful. After qualifying for this tournament he told reporters to suck his nether appendage. One presumes that said reporters were of the male persuasion, but that doesn’t make Diego gay. No sirree. Veronica es una rubia. This begs the question whether a man is gay, or at least gay-curious, if he dates a brunette. Still one can be sure that if you date a blonde, the apogee of the hotness arc for a Latino (or an Arab), you might be limp-brained, but you most certainly aren’t limp-wristed. Now, young Veronica is over 30, which is not a good reflection on Diego’s masculinity, so one wonders why he didn’t compensate by stating her cup size.

Poor Diego. Just because his spent his career running around with a derrière that amply filled those tight shorts, people assume he’s gay. Why couldn’t they have invented the looser shorts during his day? But not what passes for football jerseys now. He doesn’t need help filling a shirt, never did. You can be sure that he’s never encountered a gay man, because no gay man would be able to hold his tongue—no gay man would be able to not say, “Diego, darling. We know the eighties were your heydays, but seriously, that hairdo has got to go. It was a horror then, but now, just... please.”

As difficult as it is to be serious when it comes to Maradona, let me try for a minute. Now that I am no longer furious, I keep wondering why I was. Why did I find his response, and the question, so offensive?

I am gay. Yes sirree, I am. I was gay before I began to play soccer over 40 years ago. It’s been 28 years since a friend and I organized one of the first gay soccer teams in the world. I have played on gay teams and straight ones—I’m so gay, though, that as soon as I join a straight team it becomes mixed. Our gay team encountered a lot of problems on the fields in the early days. I have been spat on (three times), elbowed, sucker punched, and victimized by vicious tackles. I remember once writhing on the ground after one such tackle, while the tackler stood above me, screaming that he didn’t want to contract AIDS. The referee called a foul, but wouldn’t give him a yellow card until one of my teammates jumped the player and pummeled him. Both got red-carded. (Arturo Ruiz, I love you, wherever you are!) It wasn’t until 1988 that the league finally decided to crack down on any egregious behavior toward us. I think it was the following season that we topped the standings, and the season after that, and the one after that.

I attended a game three weeks ago. The club’s first team (most of them twenty years my junior) won 4-0, and it was wonderful to note how things have changed, how little difference there was between the two opposing teams (true, the gay teams’ uniforms were more coordinated).

This is San Francisco, and it’s 2010, so it’s not difficult to understand the general acceptance. However, there are dozens of gay teams around the world now. The last gay tournament I played in—or I should say, sat on the bench in—was in Buenos Aires. Yes, Diego, three Argentinean gay teams entered the tournament.

I have been out for so long, I thought I had become post-homosexual. I’ve seen so much stupidity, I began to assume that little could arouse my rage. I was wrong. Congratulations, Diegito.

Now why was I so offended? The man has said many a stupid thing. Why would I even take him seriously?

Homophobia is rampant in soccer, probably more so than in any other sport. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s closeted! Maybe it’s the double messages. If you have attended a soccer game in any of the big leagues, you’ve heard the abuse thrown at players. This is one of the chants directed at Sol Campbell by Spurs fans after he transferred to Arsenal.

He’s big!
He’s black!
He takes it up the crack.
Sol Campbell!
Sol Campbell!

Or

Sol, Sol, wherever you may be,
You’re on the verge of lunacy.
And we don’t give a fuck,
if you’re hanging from a tree,
You Judas cunt with HIV.

The FA believes it is powerless to change this bigoted culture. Their attempt at ameliorating the problem is so obviously futile. I’m not holding my breath that things will change anytime soon. Almost every other sport has had someone come out of the closet either toward the end of his career or after retirement. The only soccer player to do so is Justin Fashanu and he committed suicide soon after. Not a good precedent. Footballers aren’t likely to rush out of the closet any time soon. A rugby player, Gareth Thomas, the British captain, can come out, but a footballer can’t. Le Saux’s experience at being bullied and harassed because it was assumed he was gay (he wasn’t, but he liked to read the Guardian) is so outrageous that it is farcically comic.

This has been going on for so long, and the situation is so unlikely to change, that I’ve grown inured to the hurt. I guess I now take it for granted.

So of all things, why did Diego’s response offend me so?

Maybe it’s because here we have a man who admits to committing one of the most egregious displays of unsportsman-like conduct—actually boasts about his hand of God (See the never-dull Peter Singer’s take on cheating), a habitual cocaine user, a drug dealer, a tax evader, a man who shoots at reporters; here we have a man who isn’t embarrassed about keeping the company of murderers and Mafiosi, but is horrified at the thought that someone could think of him as gay.

Ooooh, that grates on my soul.

Maybe it’s because I know that his reaction is not an anomaly, that the number of people who feel the way he does might have drastically decreased through the years but they’re still out there in large numbers. Maybe because on Univision broadcasts, when Diego’s players kissed each other, the announcers made sure to explain that Argentines are simply more expressive.

Maybe it’s his horrified expression triggering a myriad of unpleasant memories in my head. Maybe it’s Veronica. Do you think Le Saux would have been harassed for being gay if he had a blond girlfriend and read the Guardian? What newspaper do you read, Diego?

Maybe it’s because I used to love him so—so long ago.

I don’t know. I can’t think now. I’m upset again.

Maybe I should have told Daniel to write this. He isn’t gay, and his girlfriend is much hotter than Veronica, though brunette.

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