Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Soccer player "outed" in Peru as Argentina hosts gay soccer tournament

Above: Goalkeeper Juan "Chiquito" Flores' professional soccer career might be coming to an end after a homophobic gossip show "outs" him (An extended version of the video here); Below: Argentina's main gay soccer team, DAG.

International gay soccer tournament takes over Buenos Aires - For months now I've been getting bombarded by so many press releases, news items and e-mail messages about this week's international gay soccer tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that in some respects I will be oh-so-happy when the event ends this Saturday (additional information about the tournament can be found at Bloomberg Canada's Digital Journal).

No more newspaper articles about the Mexican team's pink uniforms! No more press releases about cute team mascots! No more debates about why there are no lesbian teams at a "gay and lesbian" event! Or complaints that the event is too expensive for the average Argentinean to attend! (the last two being pretty valid points but nevertheless I'll be happy when the e-mail bombardment stops).

Still, there is no denying that the event, the first of its kind in all of Latin America, is a landmark event that illustrates the amazing advances that the gay community has seen in the region over the last decade.

But, should there be a 'gay' soccer tournament at all?
- Last week I read an interesting post over at Dollymix questioning the need to gave a 'gay' soccer tournament at all instead of "working to make straight football a more supportive and welcoming place for gay athletes and fans" which is fine and dandy - except that it's easier said than done.

I mean, to my knowledge, there has never been a single soccer player that has come out as being gay while still on a professional team and I can only name one player who came out after he finished his professional career - and he is said to have committed suicide in part over the pressure and stress that followed his announcement.

No doubt a reflection of the intense homophobia that haunts the sport. No wonder the Brazilian soccer world was "thrown into turmoil" as recent as last month over "insinuations that a player was gay" as this Associated Press article explains.

Peru soccer star in free-fall after video shows him canoodling with two men at a bar
- Just a couple of weeks ago, on September 13th, a popular television gossip show in Peru ran video of an apparently inebriated Juan "Chiquito" Flores - a star goalie for Peru's Cienciano professional soccer team - standing at a 2nd floor bar terrace getting pretty chummy with a couple of male friends (see above).

In a
longer version of the segment, the show goes at length about the women that have been rumored to be his girlfriends in the past, then takes a cheap-shot at his virility by showing scenes from a Punked!-type prank show in which Flores is caught shrieking when he thinks a television studio has caught on fire, and - finally - they gleefully unveil the video of Flores and his friends at the bar.

Flores' response could not have come faster. The day after the images aired he told Veronica Gasco of Peru21, in no unequivocal terms, that
he was not gay and only liked women.

He said that he was out with friends and that the scenes in the video had been taken out of context, that he'd seen a beautiful woman walk by and was trying to point her out to a friend. The kiss that was supposedly caught on camera? Flores says that the music was too loud and that he had to get very close to his friend's ear in order to be understood and that, while he had a number of gay friends and partied at gay bars, he was only sorry to say that he was not gay (there is also a great interview with Jaime Bayly also from Sep. 16th to which I have linked at the bottom of this post).

"Chiquito faggot! Chiquito faggot!" - Denials notwithstanding, the damage to his career seems irreversible, even if it's been days since the video aired.

On September 16th, on the eve of the first match in which Flores played after the images were aired, his teammates were already telling sports publication
El Bocon that they would defend Flores from any gay taunts by members of their opposing team or their fans.

reports that Flores' team went on to lose 4-1 and that it was uncharacteristic of the goalie to let so many soccer balls fly past him in a single game. They also said that fans of the winning team, Melgar, filled the air with chants of “Chiquito maricón, Chiquito maricón” ("Chiquito faggot! Chiquito faggot!") which the paper says had a visible effect on Flores.

On the 18th,
Libero reported that Flores admitted that insinuations by the gossip show host Magaly Medina had "affected the entire team's performance" and added "if I am seen with a woman, I'm a womanizer; if I'm seen with a man, I'm a maricón."

Things got much worse at Cienciano's next game on September 19th and not only because the team lost again 1-0. At least they couldn't blame Flores for allowing the score: By the time the score came, he had already been removed from the game for attacking a ball-handler (no pun intended).

"He's gone crazy"
- That's the Sept. 20th Correo headline in an article that describes how after 28 minutes of play Flores simply walked over to the sidelines and kicked a soccer ball-handler in the shin.

The paper says that from the start of the match every single person in the stadium kept screaming 'maricón, maricón' at Flores and that the goalie lost it when he looked over and saw the ball-handler smile at him.
The ball handler, Freddy Caoquira Ccalla, was taken to a hospital to make sure he did not have any fractures but first requested a police inquiry upon which Flores was led off the field by the police and released later after giving his declaration on the incident (there was no fracture but Flores has been ordered to pay the medical costs).

He tells
Correo that the ball boy had been throwing insults at him and calling him a fag from the start of the game and that he was overcome by anger and by the discomfort that the chants ricocheting around the stadium walls had caused in him.

Cienciano, Flores team, is said to be seriously considering letting go of Flores early (his current contract with the team ends in December) and told the paper that it could not deal any longer with the 'scandals' surrounding the goalie.

El Bocon
says that, as Flores came out of the police station, several people waiting for his release shouted 'maricón' at him and told him he should go to jail.

Bayly probably is right to say Flores is not gay: Back on the 16th Flores also did an telephone interview with popular Peruvian talk show host Jaime Bayly (for those of you who understand Spanish, Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here).

Bayly, who is bisexual, says that it's obvious from the images shown on the tape that there is no romantic link between the men and that the producers of the gossip show edited it with malice and with the sole purpose of damaging Flores' reputation.

Bayly addresses issues related to homophobia, masculinity and male bonding with humor and calls the scandal unjust. And I tend to share his assumption that Flores not gay.

Nevertheless it seems Flores' career might be coming to an end. Perhaps proof that we do need international gay and lesbian soccer tournaments to combat homophobia in soccer while a new reality takes shape.


Jaime Bayly interviews in Spanish:

1st interview, parts 1 and 2 - Sept. 16, 2007

2nd interview, parts 1 and 2 - Sept. 23, 2007

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