A gay football manager says he has united his team by taking the mickey out of himself.
Luke Tuffs, 34, said he understood from his playing days – when he was spat on and received knife threats – the pressure gay footballers were under to reveal their sexuality.
But as a coach he won over the dressing room with his banter.
He said: “There’s a stereotype that gay people are offended easily. I always get the feeling early doors that people are treading on eggshells around me in case they offend me.
“So I’ll take the mickey out of myself and that allows others to do it and feel comfortable. In football culture, when people are taking the mickey out of you, it means they like you – but only if they are doing it to everyone else as well.
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“People outside the game need to realise that, in football, people acknowledge differences by mocking each other from a good place with compassion and togetherness. Usually the best teams are built like that.’’
Luke is boss of Ashford Town FC, Kent, who play in the Isthmian League South Central Division – the eighth tier of English football.
He said it was “not right” he is the highest-level coach in the UK game to come out.
He told Attitude magazine: “As a player, I’ve been spat on and I’ve had people threaten to stab me, and all sorts.
“We have to fight to stop that homophobic abuse, which includes hatred from the terraces – and allowing a team spirit to develop on my side counters that.
“On the playing staff side I’m in the eighth tier of English football and I’m the highest ‘out’ person. That’s not right.
“We are going in the right direction, but there’s so much more work to do.”
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