It’s no secret (or at least it shouldn’t be one) that men’s sports are deeply homoerotic. There’s a reason sports anime featuring all-male casts have rocketed to popularity in recent years, and it’s not just the epic highs and lows of high school football (soccer), or volleyball, or basketball, or rugby, or ice skating. Sports teams are a fanfic writers’ dream with all of the storylines, rivalries, and passionate emotions running high. And in my opinion, EA FC 24 would be a much better game if it let us lean into that a little more.
I am, of course, partially joking here. I understand that men can have intense, passionate moments with each other that aren’t romantic or sexual. But I also can’t help but mentally scream “NOW KISS” when my midfielder and striker leap into each other’s arms after collaborating on an incredible goal. The game’s animations don’t really help, with many including tender face holding and staring deep into each other’s eyes. With all that adrenaline pumping and our efforts combining to create success, why shouldn’t we get to do a little kiss over it, as a treat?
It’s not even that wild of an ask, really. EA FC 24 already features dozens of different celebration animations players can choose from to customize their footballer, ranging from doing front flips, to miming playing a video game, to blowing kisses. It shouldn’t be that much of a stretch to add a little celebratory smooch with the guy you assisted to that roster of choices.
Unfortunately, professional soccer has historically been very homophobic, despite the raging homoeroticism on display, and this game is indeed a simulator of that space. Even Ted Lasso had a storyline about the rampant homophobia in professional football. There don’t seem to be any male openly gay professional players included in the game’s Ultimate Team mode, which uses real-life players to build ultra squads you pit against other players online.
One could argue that there just haven’t been any exceptional gay or queer male soccer players so far, or at least none that could compare to the likes of Megan Rapinoe, but you have to wonder how much the persecution and scrutiny towards gay men in sports vs. gay women in sports has to factor in there. Most queer male professional or semi-professional players have not stayed in the league or have retired; it’s hard to develop into a great player if you can’t even relax in the locker room or in front of fans. But there are some currently playing, like EFL One team Blackpool’s Jake Daniels — the first professional English footballer to come out as gay in 32 years when he first came out last year.
It’s clear that EA FC as a franchise is trying to move in a more diverse direction, including more body type, hair, and skin color options for its character creator and finally including women’s professional teams in a bigger capacity. But these games will never capture the full reality of global men’s professional football so long as they refuse to include the queer players who also participate. By keeping them invisible — Daniels, for example, doesn’t appear on the in-game Blackpool roster even in reserves — the game is holding the sport and players it aims to represent back from reaching a more equitable future.