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We Loved You Really, Ronaldo

By Mark Simpson (collected in Metrosexy)

Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best footballers ever to play in this country – and one of the best looking – brought out the worst in the English.

He prickled you see, our ugly, mean-minded, spiteful, spitting jealousy. We were jealous of his talent, his looks, his body, his youth, his money and most of all of his total lack of interest in what the English media and terrace culture thought of him and his dress sense and the way they kept shouting ‘winker!’, ‘poof!’, ‘twinkletoes!!’ to try and get his attention.

It just made us even more frenzied and passionate and helpless that the way we obsessed over everything about him from the darkness of his tan to the size of his beach shorts meant nothing to him. He ignored our stalkerish behaviour, and our playground bullying, and just kept on being Cristiano. He didn’t need us. He didn’t even bloody notice us. He was hot. He knew he was hot. And worst of all, there was nothing we could do about it. No wonder we hated him.

And now it seems he’s leaving us behind for good – and will probably forget about us before he even lands in Madrid. The bastard!

Our most popular tabloid The Sun has run a particularly bitchy campaign against him for years. Most recently, they devoted pages of phoney outrage to the fact that he wore a pink baseball cap on holiday in LA, and had the effrontery to wear a flower in his ear. Apparently he’s also personally to blame for turning today’s pro footballers into metrosexuals and is the evil ‘queen’ behind what they like to call ‘The Campions League’.

In short, Ronaldo has been on the receiving end of abuse that would be deemed ‘homophobic’ in a trice if it were directed at someone actually gay. But this isn’t just homophobia in the form of metrophobia, this is good old English hypocrisy at work: The Sun exploits the way young footballers look today to sell papers, filling their pages almost daily with pictures of them being tarty – and then of course damns them for making us look at them.

Ronaldo united the English in ways that few other things do these days. The editor of snooty Esquire for instance, a magazine that likes to see itself as being the opposite end of the media and social spectrum to The Sun, recently joined in the national gang bang of Ronaldo, taking aim at his pretty pouting face in a piece sniffing at the vulgarity of English footballers, and the way they ‘pile on the designer labels with gay abandon (Ronaldo), accessorise with far too many sparkly things (Ronaldo) and haven’t yet discovered that logos a go-go have gone out of fashion (Ronaldo).’

Yes dear, but Ronaldo has more natural beauty, sexiness and vitality in his left foot than a hundred back issues of Esquire – a magazine that would benefit enormously from a little vulgarity: I mean, it might be mistaken for something actually alive. It’s probably Ronaldo’s ‘gay abandon’ which is the most wonderful and insufferable thing about him to the English. After all, it’s the sign that someone is genuinely free – they genuinely don’t care what the neighbours/bloke down the pub/The Sun/Esquire think, and they do and wear what they like, damn them.

This is also probably the reason why he was hated so much for his on-pitch naughtiness – not so much the cheating itself, but the brazenness of it. The flamboyance of it! Ronaldo was hated and envied because he broke the rules in plain view. And could behave like a spoilt child. The English you see can never forgive someone for doing publicly what they have to spend so much time and energy hiding.

As Ronaldo said, matter-of-factly, in response to the English media’s frenzy over the pink hat with the flower: ‘I don’t see what is wrong with that if you are comfortable with your sexuality.’ But the English aren’t comfortable, Ronaldo. In any sense. Don’t remind us of it!.

David Beckham managed, more or less, to get away with sarongs and nail polish and worse. But that was partly because Beckham wasn’t as talented a footballer as Ronaldo, wasn’t as pretty, or as young – and, unlike Ronaldo, was very, very concerned with handling the English press and his public image: he really cared about us and what we thought, and so was generally regarded as ‘nice’. Most importantly, in the end Becks was English. He may have been a tart, but he was our tart (though at the moment he appears to be Mr Armani’s.)

The problem with Portuguese Ronaldo, and the reason ultimately why he was so resented and the target of such passionate ambivalence, was that he wasn’t ours. He was always only on loan – which is why whenever rumours of a move abroad surfaced the hate campaign in the press would reach new, tremulous heights.

But now he’s really going. And we’re really going to miss him. But being English, the way we’ll express that is by saying: ‘Good riddance, you WINKER!!’

Why The Sun Can’t Leave Ronaldo’s Legs Alone

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“‘Ere, Ron – The Sun want to know if you’ve got any smaller shorts?”

Britain’s best-selling newspaper The Sun has been working itself into a confused lather about our metrosexual footballers, again. Like me, it just can’t leave them alone.

In a long, hand-wringing – and graphically illustrated – article spread over the centre pages last Friday headlined ‘Preen Team’ they ask ‘What the hell is going on with our footballers?’

Led by the Premier League’s arch-metrosexual Cristiano Ronaldo, football has this summer gone camper than a row of tents.

This week Ronaldo continued his holiday tour by hanging out in a pair of tight silver shorts in LA – and had the world’s gay men coming over all funny.

Er no, it had The Sun coming over all funny. For much of the summer, The Sun has been stalking Portuguese Ronaldo, the best footballer in the UK and also one of the best looking, who is currently convalescing after an injury (hence the unflattering blue footwear), trying to exploit his current unpopularity – the result of his plans to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid, and his failure to keep them, like his hot oiled bod, under wraps.

Like a jealous, spurned suitor, The Sun (along with most of the Brit tabloids) has been bitching and beating him up over his dark (Portuguese) tan, his shorts, his good looks – and his lack of apology for them. And trying to imply he is girly and, what is the same thing in their book, homo.

And who can blame him for wanting to leave the UK, where the biggest paper behaves like a school-ground bully with sexual identity issues? They’ve even published pictures of him smiling at a mate (who appears to be his brother), telling us that he’s cruising him. And I thought I had bumsex on the brain.

In a familiar trick, they’ve given space to the editor of ‘Britain’s best-selling gay magazine’ to gush about what a ‘gay idol’ Ronaldo is. Otherwise known as guilt by association. At the same time as proving they’re ‘not homophobic’ because they let the king of poofs have his say.

Friday’s article goes one step further and seems to blame Ronaldo for making an entire generation of footballers gay. I know he has nice legs, but I doubt even those pins have that kind of power.

But a perfectly-waxed chest and budgie smuggling shorts are just the tip of the iceberg.

A sun investigation has found the manbag and grooming obsession is rife among our highly-paid stars.

As you may have suspected, it turns out that this ‘investigation’ is just another excuse for lots of pics of young footballers without much on. An excuse even smaller than Ron’s silver shorts.

Though I can’t help but poke fun at The Sun‘s hissy list of the metrosexual offences of our footie aces:

Chelsea ace Frank Lampard refused to go anywhere this summer without his salmon pink vest and matching shorts.

(Which we’ve Photoshopped to make look even pinker and gayer, just as we’ve done with Ronaldo’s tan to make him look even darker and even more of a girly dago.)

He has also been lugging around wife Elen Rives’ fuchsia handbag.

I think it suits Fabulous Frankie and he should nick it off her.

Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro actually SHAVED his mate’s chest and armpits on the deck of their holiday yacht this week in a show of shameless male bonding.

Actually SHAVED his mate’s chest and armpits? No! Well, I never! The shamelessness of it!

And Liverpool and Spain striker Fernando Torres spent most of last month by the pool with an Alice band in his hair while leafing through lifestyle magazines.

You can bet he wasn’t reading The Sun.

Ah, for the days of football when men were men and soap was never scented – or dropped. Right on cue The Sun wheels out 1970s footballer Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, to whinge about how in his day he got paid ten bob a week, cut his own hair with garden shears, ate gravel, and beat up poofs on sight (or so you’d be forgiven for thinking). Interesting that The Sun didn’t ask retired ‘hardman’ Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock back to play this role, after he failed to deliver the poof-baiting goods in a recent previous Sun article bemoaning the gayness of today’s football.

How The Sun loves to keep coming back to this theme of metro V retro, pretending of course to be on the side of retrosexuality against, well, homosexuality. Partly this is because it imagines that retrosexuality is synonymous with ‘working class’ – traditionally the majority of this tab’s readership – because The Sun is now edited by expensively educated types who are faking it.

By posing as champions of ‘Chopper’ Harris they present themselves as connected to that stoic proletarian tradition they actually have nothing to do with, and today’s consumerist, sensual, closetted metro Sun is a million fake-tanned miles from.

I suspect readers under the age of 30 that they know they desperately need to attract if they are to have any future at all, let alone continue to sell millions every day, are mostly turned off by this confused and conflicted metrophobic bullying, however jokey it’s presented as being. Especially those from a working class background. Why? Because they will probably see it as directed against them.

When repeatedly adopting this kind of cor, strewth, look at the pooftahs footballers are today! tone, The Sun just sounds like their nightmare fat dad.

Or me.

Intentionally or not, this time the space given to the editor of Attitude to twitter about fashion and male freedom and footballers showing the way makes that gay mag sound much more in tune with younger Sun readers than The Sun itself.

Tip: Dave Harley

I Wanna Hold Your Hand: Touchy-Feely Footballers

Hand holdingBy Mark Simpson (Guardian CIF, 30/11/07)

In an age of broadband hardcore it’s rather sweet to discover that men are still so easily aroused. At least, that is, football fans and tabloid journalists.

A little innocent hand-holding by Liverpool FC during a team-building training session before their crucial Champions League match with Porto worked the Sun into a frenzy this week. ‘Koppin’ Off’ screamed The Sun headline, next to a picture of Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard chastely holding hands, with the subtitle ‘So this is what they mean by “training camp”??’

Those logging on with moistening palms to The Sun’s website were treated to a ‘slide show’ of other members of Liverpool FC holding hands with mood-enhancing captions like ‘Chase me, chase me!’ and ‘Ere, is that the fairy across the Mersey?’.

In fact, The Sun was so excited by this non-story it returned to it yesterday, wheeling in early 90s Liverpool ‘hardman’ footballer Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock to stick it to the nancy boys, by-lining a piece headlined, ‘What’s next… make-up and pink strips?’

At first Ruddock dutifully tries to play the ‘hardman’ role the Sun has cast him in: ‘It certainly wouldn’t have happened in my day, he says. ‘I’d have found it too embarrassing and a bit girly.’

But then he begins to lose the plot: ‘The only time we would have held hands with another player is on the way back from the pub after a few drinks.’

No, no, NO! You’re really letting the side down now, hardman! Where’s your… rigidity? The whole point of getting so pissed with the lads is so that you don’t remember what you did on the way home and certainly don’t write about it in a national newspaper.

But Neil can’t help himself: ‘In our day, we did all our team-building in the pub. When a new player joined it was straight down the pub for a few bevies… It did the trick and the new lads soon bedded in.’

Bedded in?? Was that before or after holding your hand on the way back from the pub?

Neil tries to get back ‘on message’, but then he’s off again, giving us far too much information: ‘But it’s no longer a hardman’s game. John Terry and Frank Lampard now shave their body hair off…. It’s a Continental thing… When I was at West Ham Paulo Di Canio shaved off all his hair apart from the stuff on his head.’

I’m sure if you asked them nicely and made it clear how much you preferred your footballers furry they’d let their body hair grow for the ‘Razor’.

He goes on: ‘Players use sunbeds and wax their chests and under-arm hair. What’s next? Make-up? Pink strips?’.

Get up to speed mate. The Sun already told us a few months back that Manchester United have had to rebuild their players’ changing rooms to make their lockers big enough to ‘accommodate their manbags’ filled with ‘more cosmetics than their WAGS’.

Then, finally, he confesses: ‘Mind you, if I was offered £120,000 a week like some of the top stars are on now I would hold Peter Crouch’s hand – or anyone else’s for that matter.’

Yes, which reminds me Neil, how much were you paid to be Pete Burn’s bitch on Wife Swap?

Maybe it’s the fear of another tongue-lashing from hardman Pete Burns that’s responsible for Ruddock’s endearing failure to deliver the queerbashing goods here and go a bit… limp. Compared the Sun’s first report, and, sadly, too many football fans, he seems to go out of his way not to chastise the Liverpool players for their ‘poovery’ – and talks instead rather mildly about how holding hands is ‘a bit girly’. (At least, that is, when you’re sober.)

Or perhaps he was worried someone might find some pics of those dirty great big sloppy snogs he and the lads used to give one another after every goal back in the good old manly days of soccer. Followed, frequently, by what looked very much like a team gang-bang on the ground.

Today’s metrosexual young footballers – perhaps because they look so ‘gay’ – are vestal virgins with one another by comparison. They practically shake hands and exchange business cards.

On the other hand, perhaps they don’t snog each other wildly after a goal these days because unlike Ruddock’s retrosexual generation, they don’t need that special excuse – or have to be dosed with gallons of beer down the pub – to actually show affection towards other men. Many of them probably kiss one another when meeting and bidding farewell, like Becks – ‘It’s a Continental thing’. This after all is a generation of straight lads who send text messages to other lads peppered with kisses at the end. And to be honest, this old pooftah finds that a bit girly himself.

It seems though that holding hands sober, whatever the Sun or Ruddock think of it, worked a treat. Liverpool won the game against Porto 4-1.

The Sun newspaper – how gay is it?

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Why is Britain’s best-selling, sauciest tabloid so unsure of its sexuality?

Mark Simpson, the Guardian (August 24, 2007)

The Sun’s TV critic Ally Ross is an unhappy camper. You see, he’s always bitching about TV being ‘too gay’. Which is a rather peculiar thing for a TV critic to complain about. Perhaps his dad wanted him to be a (much less well paid) sports writer.

Last Friday, he proved what a pugilist he is by laying into the recently launched ITV Anthony Cotton daytime chat show, and by attacking all things poovey on telly. He concluded with his 0ver-familiar refrain: ‘TV is way too camp, i.e. gay and rubbish, for its own good’. At the end of a column simply chocka with catty clawings and rubbish campery.

In fact, so keen is big butch Ross (who likes to pose as the Test Card Girl above his byline) to straighten out telly and get rid of gays and gayness, in an unrelated piece about Big Brother on the same page, recounting how one male contestant was lovingly describing women as ‘tits, baps, breasts, erm, womb people’, he interrupts this red-blooded reverie with: ‘cuts to Gerry (the gay Greek contestant) fantasising about the Greek Army.’ Thanks for that straight thought, Ally.

Actually, I agree. TV is too ‘gay’ and camp and rubbish. But so are you, Ally dearie. And so, these days, is the Sun. Though, like its TV critic, it seems rather confused and conflicted.

In the same issue, readers were treated to another gratuitous ‘gay’ fantasy titled ‘Brokeback Putin’ – a spread of shirtless snaps of Russian President Vladimir Putin and (fully clothed) Prince Albert of Monaco on a blokey fishing holiday, complete with ‘camp’ captions that try to portray him as homo (and therefore ridiculous and impotent): ‘Oooh Vlad, I’ve got a tiddler’ ‘Here let me hold it Albert’. Er, calm down will you? They’re just fishing.

The Sun’s breathless, squealing addiction to rubbish, dated campery – and its campaign to convince us all that ‘camp’ is exactly the same thing as ‘gay’ and that of course male homosexuality is a form of emasculation – is literally perverse. Even more than most papers, the Sun is desperate to attract young readers – readers who don’t share that early 1970s worldview, not least because they weren’t even born in the 1970s. Headlines like “Hello Sailor!”, the mocking front page that greeted the Navy’s recent decision to actively recruit gays and lesbians, are limp Dick Emery imitations that no one under forty-five is going to get. In the same pink and fluffy Sun-speak vein, any out gay male celebrity, regardless of their demeanour, is instantly given a new first name – ‘Camp’.

Then there’s Sun gossip columnist Victoria Newton’s creepy endless ‘Gay-O-Meter’ obsession with comedian David Walliams. Every time he’s photographed socialising with a woman the meter reads STRAIGHT (coloured blue). Every time he’s photographed with a bloke it goes into GAY (coloured pink). I thought that the whole point of gossip columnists was that they got out more.

But hang on a minute. Isn’t socialising with women girly and ‘gay’? Isn’t drinking with your male mates (or, for that matter, going fishing) something that a proper bloke is supposed to do? Isn’t the Sun actually queering things rather than straightening them out?

In fact, at the risk of it exploding in your face, that Gay-O-Meter should be turned on the Sun itself – a newspaper that is nowadays just a daily edition of girly gossip rag Heat magazine with some news about especially vain celebrities who happen to play sport at the back. A recent Sun item revealed how Man United were remodelling their player’s changing rooms and lockers to ‘accomodate their manbags’ which apparently are full of ‘more cosmetics than their WAGs’.

There is though a difference between Heat magazine and the Sun: there’s much more queer sex in the Sun. Point the Gay-O-Meter, if you dare, at the Sun’s agony aunt section with its daily ‘lesbian lust’ confessions and ‘am I gay?’ letters (not written, I hasten to add, by their TV critic). Illustrated with photo-porn novel strips of naked women and men with equally desirable, equally undressed bodies getting into messy love triangles and even messier threesomes of every possible permutation. Or all those ‘Footie Studs in Sordid Roasting Vid Scandal!’ (see centre pages for full colour spread) news stories.

The Sun is obsessed with ‘camp’ and ‘gayness’ for the same reason telly is – because popular culture is. The reason it’s so conflicted and confused is partly because of its own very recent past as an out-and-out queerbashing daily, and partly because the expensively educated people who now edit the Sun, most of whom I’m sure have lots of gay friends and even more camp straight friends, are worried about being sussed by the ‘chav’ readers they condescend to (‘chav’ is a favourite Sun word). It doesn’t appear to occur to them that their readers’ attitudes might have changed more than their own.

Then again, perhaps the Sun is so confused because it’s being doing too much spinning around in sequins. I can reveal that according to ‘sources close to the Sun’ they recently all went on a ‘team-building’ weekend in some camp seaside resort. The team-building task? Ballroom dancing.

I wonder if their TV critic’s team won?

I (Still) Want Your sex: The Sun & George Michael’s privates

In case you thought I was joking when I wrote about the gentlemen of the British press being unable to leave George Michael’s penis alone, today’s Sun newspaper, twisted sister tabloid to the News of the World scandal sheet that ran the original front page Hampstead Heath expose, provides further, lurid proof of the seriousness of their passionate fascination.

In a torrid piece snappily titled ‘Are there no depths George won’t plumb in pursuit of lust?’ by Kelvin Mackenzie, a former editor of the best-selling paper, and legendary figure in the world of tabloid newspapers, we learn that it isn’t just his penis that they can’t leave alone. It’s also his balls.

‘I can’t stand George Michael,’ McKenzie informs us, ‘and every time he tries to laugh off another vile gay sex exploit I dislike him a little more…’

Oh, come now, the lady doth protest too much. Go on, admit it, Kelvin, you love him!

Mackenzie goes on to whine at length about how he is personally affronted and disgusted by the fact that George Micheal can have no-strings sex when he wants it – for free – and, even worse, that his partner doesn’t mind. All in all, it is quite insufferable, isn’t it? Well, it is if you look like Kelvin Mackenzie.

Alas, sexual jealousy can be an ugly, violent, even murderous thing.  Amplifying and in fact spelling out the NOTW’s criminal incitement fantasy about Michael having ‘his throat cut’, Mackenzie writes:

‘… one day I suspect Michael will come a terrible cropper pursuing his sexuality.  There are some nasty people around.’

Indeed there are, Kelvin.

A few paragraphs later, at the end of the piece we discover where those nasty people are. And they’re not on Hampstead Heath. They’re writing for The Sun:

‘Personally, I’d like to give him a good kick in the balls.  Unfortunately he’d probably enjoy it.’

But not as much as you do writing about his privates, Kelvin.

Mackenzie has a lot of previous in this area. He’s a bit of a gay sex pest.  Actually, he’s a major gay sex pest. He was after all the editor of The Sun during it’s ‘heyday’ in the Eighties, when it was utterly obsessed with gay men and their sex-lives and did its best to whip up hatred for homos – give them ‘a good kicking in the balls’ – and portray AIDS as a ‘gay plague’ which queers richly deserved because of their promiscuity.

Because, in other words, they were having too much fun.

Yes, there are some really nasty people around.