We’re Queer and we should be here: the perils and pleasures of being a gay football fan
On the cusp of a football season where players’ sexuality will once again be in the spotlight, the memoir of a black, gay football fan has gone to the top of the bestsellers list of gay biographies sold by Amazon.
The book is the debut novel of campaigner Darryl Telles and charts his nearly 30 year journey from one of the first members of the Gay Football Supporters Network to today, where he has been an out season ticket holder at Spurs. Now officially recognised as a gay supporter by the club, through membership of the Proud Lilywhites, this book charts an extraordinary journey from isolation to inclusion.
It starts in Thatcher’s Section 28 Britain and he and his friends get used to the constant abuse of fellow supporters around them. Along the way however there are also pleasures to enjoy, including the coming out of a professional footballer.
Often funny and always poignant, this novel follows the author on a unique and authentic journey. Along the way he is found in a compromising situation with a World Cup referee, befriends and comforts Justin Fashanu and finally finds a top flight footballer willing to satisfy his demands.
Within a day of being published, the book has risen to the top of the charts debuting in the top twenty sports books and the top ten football biographies. Coming as it does on the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality, this is a timely reminder of the struggles fought and won.
The book will be formally launched during Pride Weekend in Brighton at City Books in Hove on Friday August 4th from 6-8pm. Copies of the book are available to buy now from Amazon, Waterstones and is published by Mereo @£12.99
Attached is a review from the former football correspondent of the Guardian, Vivek Chaudhary
Football is a tribal game invoking a solidarity and sense of belonging like no other sport. For those who consider themselves to be a part of this committed band, the beautiful game is unique not just for what unfolds on the pitch but for the shared passions it generates off it. It is all about being part of; your team, your city or country; the colour of your shirt. The collective unbridled joy or despair that comes from sitting together in a stadium to watch your team in action is like a drug to football fans that keeps them coming back.
But what if you religiously turn up for every home game and are as passionate as any of your fellow supporters but always feel like an outsider? You are one of the few brown faces in what is an overwhelmingly white, male pastime and also happen to be gay. Racism and homophobia have turned football grounds into toxic arenas while neither the authorities nor the clubs take any action. Can you ever really belong? Would you even want to?
“We’re Queer and we’re here” provides a revealing, sometimes uncomfortable insight into being that outsider as Darryl Telles charts his career (supporting a team is like a full-time job) as a gay Spurs fan of Asian descent, the last 25 years as a season ticket holder.
Things get off to a bad start at his first home game at White Hart Lane in 1978 against Nottingham Forest (when Telles had only come out to himself) when his fellow fans chant homophobic abuse against the visitors former manager Brian Clough. You might ask yourself why he persisted with being a fan, given the hostile climate which pervaded the game at the time but he was bitten by the “football bug” at the age of eight, opting (sensibly) to choose Spurs instead of Chelsea when confronted by a Spurs skinhead about which team he supported.
Growing up in Finchley, north London as the son of Catholic, Goan parents who arrived in the 1960s from Kenya (his father worked in the British civil service there), Telles uses his football life to tell a wider story of belonging. He writes candidly about the hostile racial climate he faced and the anti-Gay stance of the 1980s Thatcher government and how it impacted men like him. Some of his frank accounts of what it was like being gay and non-white at the time make for uncomfortable reading, particularly his rape at the hands of a police office in 1983 while at university.
Telles’s involvement with gay football supporters groups, starting in 1989 with the Gay Football Supporters Network, which he describes as a “turning point in my life” vividly illustrates how attitudes to LGBT people within wider society and in football grounds have changed over the years. Almost all major clubs now have LGBT fans groups (Spurs is called the Proud Lillywhites and Telles is a former chair,) while has rubbed shoulders with some of his Spurs heroes in his role as a leading voice as a football equality campaigner. He oozes with pride when the rainbow banner is unfurled at the home of his beloved team and even liaises with a police commander ahead of one match following fears that homophobic abuse might be aimed at visitors Brighton, a town known for its large gay population.
Yet, as Telles persistently reminds us, things are far from perfect. There is not a single out gay professional footballer. “Roughly speaking there are 5,000 football professionals in the UK and even given conservative estimates, at least 50 of them will be from the LGBT community,” he notes.
Telles injects some light hearted insights to the tragic story of Justin Fashanu, the most high profile British footballer to have come out who committed suicide in 1988 after facing vitriolic abuse from fans and fellow players.
The two drank together at a well-known gay pub in London’s Earls Court, exchanged tales about their sexual exploits as well as football banter and Telles recommends a gay sauna in Dublin to him.
“We’re Queer and we’re here,” is a football book with a difference. Set over the course of three seasons (2014-2017) it charts in diary form Telles’s accounts of his exploits when attending games and how his team fares on the pitch, using it as a vehicle to tell the more expansive tale of gay football fans and their fight to stake their place within stadiums and society itself.
While football may have improved its attitude towards tackling racism, Telles concludes that it still has some way to go when it comes to homophobia. And he should know, having spent so many years being on the receiving end of both.
Win a signed copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, competition closes October 15th 2017.
The author Darryl Telles is available on 07736216997 or on email@example.com