Liverpool legends Robbie Fowler runs foul of the language police
POOR old Robbie Fowler. Back in his day a footballer could poke his backside out at another professional he accused of being ‘gay’ and laugh. Now Fowler’s landed a job as a pundit on the BBC’s Final Score. His mind turned to the Tottenham-Chelsea game, where Fernando Torres and Jan Vertonghen were, as he opined, “pulling at each other like a pair of girls”.
We think we know what he means. But people complain on Twitter and the BBC gets upset. Fowler feels a need to apologise, which makes him look weak as well as off-message. Says Fowler:
“I made a comment about women’s football. I do apologise. I’m a big, big fan of Liverpool Ladies, who have got a chance of winning the [Women’s Super League] tomorrow and I’ll be watching. Obviously, anyone at home who was offended, I am deeply sorry. Hope that’s the end of that.”
Some of his best friends are women’s footballers.
And, then, when it comes to fighting like girls, the sight of icola Adams coming at you should undermine Fowler’s comment.
But isn’t it all a bit of nonsense? Sarah Edgeworthy wrote in 2005 of the immensely likeable Fowler:
Fowler thinks his uncouth image arises from such harmless, early pranks. There is certainly a gulf between the spirit in which some controversial incidents came about and how they were received. The Le Saux confrontation, for example, Fowler explains away simply as a case of his retaliating verbally against a defender’s repeated, discreet use of a flying elbow. He remembered how violently Le Saux had reacted when David Batty, his team-mate at Blackburn, had baselessly called him a ‘poof’, and so chose to pursue the same line. Le Saux responded thus: ‘But I’m married!’ To which Fowler replied: ‘So was Elton John, mate.’ Cue: another elbow from Le Saux; followed by Fowler’s shorts-down gesture.
Le Saux, who reacted by elbowing Fowler in the back of the head, explained how it felt to be on the receiving end of Fowler’s wit:
“At the time it isolated me from team-mates and I wasn’t even gay – even 20 years on I don’t think it would be easy for a player to openly admit their sexual orientation.”
No. It would not. Gay is still used as a form of abuse.
But Fowler’s apology for saying two men fight like girls – a slight on their masculinity, much like his assertion that Le Saux was a poof – seems less about him being enlightened and more about his views being censored and managed by the language police. His desire –“Hope that’s the end of that” – is not a hope that sexism ends, but for an end to the abuse directed at him for speaking.
Photo: Robbie Fowler leaves the tribunal at Birmingham City FC after receiving a six match ban and a record 32,000 fine for two misconduct charges – for mimicking sniffing cocaine as a goal celebration, and for taunting Chelsea footballer Graeme Le Saux.