Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball

'Elton looked devastated and I was furious' | On homophobia in football

Former Chelsea and Scotland player Pat Nevin considered the issue of homophobia within profession...

'Elton looked devastated and I...

'Elton looked devastated and I was furious' | On homophobia in football

Former Chelsea and Scotland player Pat Nevin considered the issue of homophobia within professional football and an eye-opening encounter with Elton John on Tuesday's Off The Ball

The world of elite football remains curiously antiquated in its assumed resistance to the idea of an openly homosexual player. Despite what we may statistically expect to be so, relatively few footballers who happen to be gay  have chosen to publicise their sexuality.

As a Chelsea footballer in the early 1980s, Pat Nevin, though not homosexual himself, was a target for homophobic abuse; or banter, as some of the perpetrators would have had it.

"When I came down from Scotland, I looked unusual," he recalled of his 1983 move to London. "I didn't look like the other players because I was a bit 'punky' and not averse to wearing a beret. So, I got stick for being gay.

"I happened not to be gay, but people would say, 'you don't seem offended by it'. Well, why should I have been? I didn't see 'being gay' as offensive and that really confused football fans.

"I remember a game against West Ham where you would get that kind of stuff all the time. More often than not, I was never offended by it though and I would just turn around and give them a wink or blow them a kiss."

Elton John Pat Nevin, Chelsea, 1986.

Although he came to expect such behaviour from sections of fans, Nevin, who has regularly regaled Off The Ball listeners with insights into his interest in music, recalled what ought to have been a memorable night in the company of Elton John.

At a time when the superstar musician had taken control of his boyhood club Watford, Nevin had the good fortune to meet Elton John on a rare night out with his Chelsea teammates.

"I didn't really go to nightclubs," he admitted, "but my now-wife and I were at a nightclub with the Chelsea players and I met - clang, name drop - Elton John. He wanted to talk to me about football but I wanted to talk to him about music and we ended up having this great conversation."

"But one of the lads then was walking past and he just said, 'Hey lads, watch your arses! Elton's around.' It was just the most horrible, horrible moment. Elton looked devastated.

"He had a good line back but he was clearly upset and I was just furious and had a word with the player. I just left though because I didn't want to be on a night out with them.

"Elton just wanted to be a part of football but at that time idiots like that were pushing him away from it. Thankfully, we've kind of moved on."

Elton John Watford President Elton John greets Graham Taylor at Vicarage Road.

A conversation brought about in light of a book that Pat Nevin is working on, he is hoping that the game is now at a place where an openly gay player may be treated irrespective of their sexuality.

You will be able to listen to Pat Nevin on Off The Ball in full on tonight's show, or catch up with it later on OTB's YouTube channel. 

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Elton John Football Homophobia Pat Nevin Premier League