Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - Page 18 News List

Storm erupts over World Cup agent ‘gays’ comment

THE GUARDIAN , BERLIN

German soccer was engulfed in controversy on Tuesday over remarks by the agent of a top soccer player, who allegedly referred to a “bunch of gays” in the national team.

Michael Becker, who has been the agent of German national soccer captain Michael Ballack for more than a decade, is reported to have made the comment in the latest edition of the news magazine Der Spiegel.

In an essay entitled “New German Men,” Aleksander Osang recounts an interview he had with Becker prior to the World Cup in which the agent allegedly told him which of the players in the team were gay. He later said a former national player was ready to reveal the “bunch of gays” in the German team, according to Osang. Asked about the sexuality of one of the newer players, Becker, who is a lawyer by profession, referred to him as being “half gay.”

LIGHT, ELEGANT STYLE

Osang went on to say that Becker put the new adroit, lighter and elegant style of play that has become a trademark of trainer Joachim Loew’s players down to their homosexuality, in contrast to the typically more aggressive and offensive German style of past years, but suggested they played too delicately to assure themselves a place in the final.

According to Der Spiegel, when Becker made his remarks about the “bunch of gays” he expected the ears of fellow journalists present to “prick up,” “But they only nodded placidly,” Osang said. “All sports journalists seemed to already know the alleged homosexual conspiracies enveloping Low’s team. The rumors accompanied our team to South Africa and evidently belong to the team.”

Ballack, who was injured just before the World Cup, spent the tournament watching his team from the VIP stands. Philipp Lahm filled in as temporary captain.

NO STOOPING

Becker’s remarks have attracted sharp reactions from the soccer world. A spokesman for Bayer Leverkusen, the club where Ballack began his career and to which he will return after his departure from London’s Chelsea soccer club, said it was shocked by the remarks.

“We have absolutely no ­resentment towards homosexuals,” it said in a statement.

The German Football Federation, which is the sporting association with the largest membership in the world, refused to comment, while Loew said he “would not stoop so low” as to react.

However, the comments have raised concerns that homosexuality remains one of the major taboos in the soccer world.

Becker has neither denied nor confirmed that he made the comments, but has since said he was “misunderstood” and that the interview was not “authorized,” a common journalistic practice in Germany whereby the interviewee has the right to change his remarks after the interview.

Osang said he stood by his article.

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