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The beautiful game ‘has to be beautiful for everyone’: Joe White’s England makeup a victory for inclusion

Written by on 02/07/2021

When Joe White posted a selfie on social media after watching England beat Germany at Wembley, it was of course in celebration.

But it was not to mark the victory on the pitch. It was about an altogether more impressive triumph in the stands.

“People complimented me on my eyeshadow, my glitter England flag that I did with some silver eyeshadow and lipstick,” the Arsenal fan, who identifies as queer, told Sky News.

“It was all really, really positive and absolutely no issues.”

Sadly, though, that’s not always the case.

“There’s always a bit of hesitation going to England games,” said Joe, who goes by “they/them” pronouns.

“[At a Nations League match] in Portugal, we had a lot of homophobia from England fans.”

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Joe said the response to his make up at Wembley was overwhelming positive
Image: Joe said the response to the makeup at Wembley was overwhelming positive

Joe came out as non-binary in January last year and since then has becoming increasingly comfortable expressing that identity.

But the decision to wear makeup to Tuesday’s match (a first for them) was not a conscious one.

“I didn’t really think about it until meeting my friend at mine so we could travel up to Wembley together and I was like ‘ah, this could cause some issues’.

“If you’re just LGB you are able to almost straight-wash yourself, and ‘butch-up’ so to speak. Whereas if you’re in a face of makeup that gets a little bit harder to do if something happens.”

So did they consider removing the make-up? Not a chance.

“Visibility is a really important thing to make sure that we end up having conversations like this,” they said.

“Football is a beautiful game and it has to be beautiful for everyone.”

Joe was so overwhelmed by the support shown by fellow fans that evening that they decided to tweet about it (“nice to share a positive experience for a change”).

The post quickly went viral before being shared by England midfielder Jordan Henderson.

‘It’s kind of surreal but a really important thing to have done,” Joe said.

The Liverpool captain isn’t the only player to have shown solidarity with the LGBT+ community at Euro 2020.

England skipper Harry Kane wore a rainbow armband in the match against Germany, as did his opposite number Manuel Neuer.

Harry Kane sports a rainbow captain's armband during the game against Germany Pic AP
Image: Harry Kane sports a rainbow captain’s armband during the game against Germany Pic AP

Inclusivity has been a major talking point during the tournament, but not always on a positive note.

UEFA initially launched an investigation into whether Neuer breached rules surrounding political gestures when he first wore the armband, before dropping the probe.

European football’s governing body also denied a request from German authorities to illuminate the Allianz Arena in Munich in rainbow colours for the game against Hungary.

“I’m very, very angry with UEFA,” Joe told Sky News.

“In my opinion, all they did was rainbow-wash and queer bait to try and solve the issue and brush it under the carpet.”

Football clearly has a long way to go before it can truly claim to be a sport for all. But what happened on Tuesday – on the pitch, in the stands and online – is proof that progress is being made.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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