CRAIG Anderson has cause to wince in embarrassment even today when he goes to the football and not because he’s chosen to be a supporter of Dundee.

“There are times, say when a player is down injured, and you hear the shout of, ‘Get up ya poof’. It’s not great.”

It doesn’t happen a lot but that it happens at all is too much, although to be fair to the man doing the shouting, it is a medical fact straight people never get hurt. You can’t argue with science!

Craig is a player for HotScots FC, Scotland’s very first LGBT team which now has been going for over 10 years. They play in the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) league, the only LGBT league in Britain and against, gasp, “straight” teams as well. And yet the world keeps spinning as normal.

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Football is doing its best. The message is that everyone is welcome, whether player or supporter, but it’s still not the easiest thing to be a football fan and not be straight.

Partick Thistle last week revealed an away kit with the LGBT rainbow on the shirt, a move which was applauded by all but those who clearly believe that from now on, just being near Firhill will make even the most heterosexual switch from being a fan of Thistle to a fan of Bette Midler.

“We wanted to make a statement about inclusivity and that’s what inspired the rainbow feature on the away shirt,” said Thistle chief executive Gerry Britton. “Partick Thistle is one club open to all, we will not accept discrimination in any form and I sincerely hope that this shows that.”

Not everyone was for it. Frank MacAvennie, in a newspaper column, claimed Thistle had scored “an own goal” because he could understand a dad not buying the strip for his son in case he got bullied in the playground. Old Macca didn’t miss many chances as a player but on this subject managed to miss the whole point.

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Craig said: “I’ve got a really supportive family so things were fine on that front but it was difficult when I first started going to games. You would hear homophobic chants, this was from Dundee fans, and when it comes from your own, so to speak, it does mean more because there was a connection between me and my fellow supporters.

“I mean, you got the old, ‘We hate Jimmy Hill, he’s a poof’ stuff which at the time wasn’t nice to hear. I loved football from the go but, in those days, I was left wondering whether this was the place for me.

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“Things are better, but you still hear homophobic language so there’s a way to go. You hardly hear any racism these days, and if there is it tends to get challenged, but not so much when it comes to homophobia.”

If the great man was still around, could the chant be changed to ‘We hate Jimmy Hill, he’s pro-LGBT rights (not that there’s anything wrong with that)?’

The problem of racism in football is shamefully still a major issue. In this country, which school you went to is still a “thing”. In 2019. It makes depressing sense therefore that homophobia remains a problem.

Celtic, Rangers and other clubs have sent good-luck messages on their websites on the day of Pride Glasgow. Celtic supporters even held up a rainbow flag at Kilmarnock. It’s common for players to wear rainbow laces.

Craig said: “What Partick Thistle are doing is great. It was fantastic to see the strips, and the overwhelming response is proof there has been a culture shift. My guess is that a lot of LGBT fans, not of Thistle, will buy it.

“To see those messages come from our two biggest clubs was fantastic. That would encourage people from the LGBT community to go to games when before they might not have felt so welcome.

“It’s good to see young straight men and women not only offering support but actually being active and taking the steps they did at the Celtic game. That means a lot. It wasn’t too long ago that discussing LGBT issues at the football was never going to happen. It’s now in the mainstream."

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Scott Cuthbertson, development manager of the Equality Network, said recently that he knew of gay players in Scottish football who had come out to their club but not publicly.

“If a well-known player was to come out then, of course, it would be a positive, but I get why a player wouldn’t want to do that,” admitted Craig. “It’s difficult enough to make it in the game but I can’t imagine having to deal with being the first highprofile gay footballer. It would be too much to handle.

“I’m sure that if they came out to their team-mates, it would be fine. They would find it a lot easier, but, again, anyone who did it to the world would have a lot to take on. In that context, it’s been interesting to watch the Women’s World Cup. There is a mix of gay and straight players and it’s far more accepted.”

Things have changed from when Craig first came out as a Dundee supporter which, after last season’s woeful attempt to stay in the Premiership, carries a stigma of shame. Take his other club, HotScots FC, which he describes as “a phenomenal team” and from 2008 has been more than just an excuse to kick a ball about.

“We started out so anyone from the LGBT community could play football and be in an environment they felt safe in,” Craig tells me. “It was about the social aspect as well as the football.

“At the beginning, we played friendlies against mainstream teams and back then we did wonder how we’d been treated. You’d be going to a game wondering, ‘What have we let ourselves in for?’

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“To be fair, the teams we played against were supportive of what we were doing and overall it was a really positive experience.”

Football should be for everyone. Those who complain about a “gay agenda” being forced on them need to do a bit of growing up, a bit more reading and thinking, and rise above lazy cliches.

It is ironic that so many football supporters see it as a real man’s game but will hug a stranger like a long lost lover when a last minute goal was scored. And maybe some young person will be excused the nightmare of bullying because more follow the example of Partick Thistle.