A man who finds football triggering is gutted after learning his wedding clashes with the World Cup final - meaning may have to erect up screens so attendees can watch the match. Matt Cain grew up in a football family where he was dragged to watch the Bolton Wanderers play, but the author, who now lives in London, never fell in love with the big game.
The 47-year-old was bullied as a child where he found that football was a way for straight boys at school to take out their aggressions on him - describing it as 'sanctioned' or even encouraged by teachers. Speaking to the Mirror, Mattt highlighted that for many gay men, even the sound of a football being kicked can be triggering as it takes them back to the days of being cruelly bullied for their sexuality.
Now the author thought he'd put all that behind him and the World Cup didn't cross his mind when he planned his wedding with the man of his dreams, 49-year-old Harry Glasstone on December 18 at 3pm - but he was in for a shock after the listings were announced.
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Matt said: "It's not just gay men, but I know loads of gay men that feel the same way about football.
"It's a means for boys and men to express that they conform to a traditional idea of maleness, and it's a socially acceptable way to express aggression, aggression that isn't welcome in other areas of society.
"You put those two things together and certainly when I was growing up in the 80s you'd get boys showing how traditionally male they were, and highlighting the fact that I wasn't and using it as the excuse to express violence and aggression towards me.
"I can be sitting in the park and sometimes I get annoyed at myself becaus I've had loads of therapy, I'd written all these novels about gay men working through their feelings about themselves, and still if I'm sunbathing with my friends and a football lands near me I can't help being frightened and feeling that stab of shame as I stand up to kick the ball back.
"I know so many gay men of my generation in particular who feel the same.
"I think we all have very vivid memories of our experiences on the football field, the homophobic bullying was an aspect of every area of my life but it was always the most intense on the football field and in PE lessons because it felt like the other boys were allowed to be aggressive here, their toxic masculinity was sanctioned and even encouraged."
Matt was raised in Bolton in a family who supported their local football team and would dutifully go to matches and cheer for their favourite players.
Even Matt's nephews, who are still children, love football and he's had to play it with them - which he describes as "healing", but the trauma of his experiences at school are still there.
In the years since, he's gone on to be a successful journalist, having spent years making arts and entertainment programmes for ITV, as Channel 4 News' first ever Culture Editor, and now he's a published author too.
His most recent book, The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, which is out now and available here, is dedicated to his life partner, Harry, a life coach from Capetown, South Africa, who will become his husband on December 18.
Matt continued: "As soon as I heard, I was terrified and devastated. You'd think the wounds have healded but then you realise they're still gaping open.
"Over the last few years I have been very encouraged by the professional footballers and the English squad and the lengths they have gone to to break the link with homophobia, in parallel to how much things have improved in general.
"But then we end up with the World Cup in a country that criminalises gay sex, imprisons and even passes the death penalty against gay men, and suddenly all those feelings are being drudged up again.
"I have this conundrum about what to do at the wedding, it's supposed to be my proudest moment as a gay man but my most intense shame as gay man was on the football field.
"Now I'm going to be walking down the aisle at 3 pm on the exact day, the exact minute, that the World Cup final starts.
"I'm devastated and dreading it, I'm worried that we'll have to have a screen and it will be like getting married in a straight sports bar with toxic masculinity swirling around and men being aggressive.
Matt's partner, Harry, isn't a football fan either but he's not traumatised by the sport so doesn't have the same concerns about the wedding clash.
He continued: "He's not a football fan, he grew up in South Africa - they don't have the same following over there. I don't think there's any chance they'll be in the final with England.
"I am very visibly presenting as gay, it's obvious I'm gay, so I had all this trouble at school where as he passes as straight - he came out much later in life and didn't have any homophobic bullying at school and consequently he doesn't have the same association and he's not triggered.
"He's 49, it took us a long time to find each other, we had to wait a decade for gay marriage to be legal for this to be a possibility, then we had to cancel our wedding last year because of covid, so on a personal level it's like - we're both just stumped that we've had such bad luck that we have our day and it's clashing with this big event that opens up old wounds.
"Because we have straight men coming to the wedding who are asking us to put up a screen, then lots of gay men saying they feel uncomfortable around lots of football supporters, it's difficult.
"I think we've decided we will have a screen, but only if England make the final. If it's Italy versus Azerbaijan I'm not having football at our wedding.
"I appreciate it's an international sporting event and can be really important for a country and a chance for its population to come together, it can be a real bonding experience for a lot of people, and it can be great for morale after the past couple of years, so I don't want to be willing England to fail.
"I'm actually from a major footballing family, and I know that for many of the men in my family it's part of their identity - they support Bolton Wanderers and they support England, it's who they are, I wouldn't want to stop them enjoying this moment.
"I think if it's other countries in the final then it's just about the game and not national pride and national bonding, so we're not under as much obligation, I don't think.
"The most difficult thing is we had thought we would have a screen in the corner of the main room, but what we've discovered is they both start at exactly the same time - It's difficult, I don't want people sitting in their seats looking at their phones.
"There is a part of me that thinks it's my big day, but when you're having a big wedding you want everyone to be having a good time, I feel that I'm under a lot of pressure and there's not an easy answer.
"Compromises will have to be made in the name of football, something that has caused me great pain and damage over the years, but I don't want to let it spoil my day so I need to find some kind of way around it.
"I don't want any negativity or negative emotions in the room on the day, and football may be the uninvited guest at my wedding, but I will still make it feel welcome.
"We can't really have a screen in the side room because people wouldn't be able to have both things at once, we might have to start earlier - move the wedding forward, we don't know if that's possible, it's a bit of a nightmare, to be honest."
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