Well, it's getting near that time, where everyone is making their lists and checking it twice, trying to find out who's been naughty, and who's been nice. And Christmas is coming, too. So, the media is in full-on rumor-digging mode, and the last week has provided a few juicy nuggets for our turnover appetite. First, and foremost, is the controversial one. His name is Richarlyson, he's from Brazil (shocker), and he's a 24 year old attacking midfielder. That's pretty tame, but here's what the uproar in regard to him has been about:
An apparent slip of the tongue on-air by a soccer club manager may lead a pro player in São Paulo, Brazil, to bring civil and criminal charges. José Cyrillo Jr., a manager with the Palmeiras team, answered a question on the “Debate Bola” TV program about rumors that a player from rival São Paulo was arranging a national television interview to come out.
Asked if the unnamed player was from Palmeiras, Cyrillo responded, “No, Richarlyson was almost with Palmeiras.” Richarlyson has now asked an attorney, Renato Prata Salge, to review video of Cyrillo’s interview to determine his legal options.
Meanwhile, Richarlyson’s agent denied his client was gay, and a legal expert said that, having suggested Richarlyson was the rumored gay player, the legal burden would be on Cyrillo to bring forward evidence to support the accusation.
So, without the supporting evidence, it's hard to believe anything and we should give him the benefit of the doubt. However, if, for purely hypothetical reasons, a homosexual player should wind up on Roma's transfer list, then how would we feel? We all know the immense masculinity involved with most sports (minus tennis, figure skating and wrestling - much love to the sport, but if you're going to be wearing latex body suits and rub up on another man in close quarters...well, it wouldn't be so far-fetched to say that some can fart balloon animals at this point), and the effect on the locker room the presence of a gay player could have. (Key word: could, as I really feel the potential explosion is more bark than bite.)
I will freely admit to being incredibly naive. I don't get it. I don't understand why people make a big deal out of sexual orientation, race, religion or any other differentiating demographic category. To me, life is random. I didn't choose to be Caucasian. I didn't choose to be heterosexual. I didn't choose to be a certain height. I didn't choose to have the dashingly handsome looks of a mid-70's Burt Reynolds, with the same sexy 'stache. Just like I didn't choose to be a Roma fan, it chose me. I don't care what you are, it doesn't define you as a person. Therefore, to me, to denigrate or even differentiate based on any of these categories is incredibly idiotic, ignorant and asinine in the first place. But here goes.
Would I like to see a gay player come to Roma? Well, it's the same as my feelings on any other player, regardless of whom he likes to wake up next to. If he can make a significant impact on this team, then yes, absolutely. If not, no thank you. Do I think it's in the best interest of Roma or the player due to other factors? That's where I differ.
I'd love to sit here and be idealistic. Say the media will treat him as though he is any other player, and see his unfounded accusations as just that - but let's not kid ourselves. In the current state of society, this is the media equivalent of digging a hole for a tree in your back yard and getting hit in the face with a stream of oil shooting 500 feet in the air. It's hitting triple 7's in Vegas. It's the jackpot, regardless of its validity or factual accuracy.
Therefore, my issue has nothing to do with how a player's sexual orientation impacts the locker room, because they are professionals and will act as such - although I feel the backlash in certain sports may be different than in others (American football, for example, where other players have said numerous times there is no place for homosexuality in the locker room - which is a crock of shit, because it's there and they refuse to accept that). My issue is how will the massive controversy, from both the media and other fans, affect his ability to mesh with the team and block out the inevitable distractions effectively. As much as some players say it doesn't matter, it does. We saw it with the racist chants a few years ago, which forced Marc Zoro to rightfully pick up the ball and walk off the pitch. There is no question in my mind he will become a target to the ignorant ultras and fans of the Roman opposition.
What happens the first time he misses a sitter? Or has a poor game? What will the criticism read like? Will certain Roma fans, as much as I shudder at the thought, turn on a player based on a personal aspect? Will the papers print lies to sell copies? Will they begin to make up false rumors? Who will be the first person to bring it up to his face and how? And how will that player react? I think it will take an incredibly strong person to be the first to out himself. Until that happens, we won't know anything. But as it has been said before, this will happen.
Ideally, he becomes a locker room favorite and a unifying figures around which the team rallies away from home. And this is why I think a current Roma player coming out would make a subject like this much easier. Not only has he already adapted to the team technically and personally, but he'll already have the benefit of being a known-figure in the locker room. Somebody whose teammates, mostly, genuinely like and want to fight for. We hope a new acquisition would be afforded this same treatment, but that's not the case, in or out of sport. We don't usually find a new co-worker and say as soon as they walk in the door, "Oooh, I want to fight for them." That's not how the human psyche works, typically.
Unfortunately, Roma player or not, I don't think Italy is the place to have your first major athlete outed, mostly due to the crowd problems and issues with racism which have plagued the league since, well, always. I don't think it would be in the best interest of anybody: player, team or otherwise. Nor can I really pick a certain league where it would be "ideal" for a player to come out. I think it depends on the situation. I don't think it would need to be a player of Kaka or Ronaldinho status, but I think a person beloved by the fans of both club and country would help transitional thinking. That is, if people are so ignorant as to believe there aren't any gay players underneath our noses at this moment.
All that said, this "homosexuality" issue is purely hypothetical, and if he denies it, then I'll believe him.
So, who is this Richarlyson guy? Because it seems like there is a very real chance he is winding up in Rome during the January window, as this direct quote from his pops indicates:
The paper quotes his father (and agent), former player Lele, who said "Roma has put forward an offer that you can’t refuse".
I'm expecting this to happen, from all the reports which have come out of Brazil recently. And of course, the unsurpassed accuracy of Wikipedia has let it be known that...
"Richarlyson is reported to have agreed to move to AS Roma during the January transfer period."
There's your gavel crashing down. So it's official, because Wikipedia says so.
Richy is a left-footed(!) attacking midfielder, which I suppose means he can probably play any where across the front midfield line, with a decent shot, some good speed and technique to boot. Basically, he's Brazilian. Whether or not he's ready for Serie A I can't answer. What I can answer is this: Given TGIP's reluctance to try on new clothing, it won't matter until next season anyway. Nor do I even have a ballpark figure as to how much he would cost. If I had to take a wild guess I'd say 6-8m, but I can't really say.
Oh, and this:
In the beginning of 2007, the player suffered an automobile accident and was forced to stop playing for about 3 months.
Listen, I don't care if he's the transsexual rodeo clown I've been harping about for the past however many months. Or I don't care if he's giving the reach-around to Zach Braff on a nightly basis. Or is immensely effeminate (see: Zach Braff). Can we just get somebody who hasn't nearly died in the last year? Please? Come on. What's with buying up all the damaged goods? First Barusso, then Espo, then Cicinho, now this. I bet when Rosella goes grocery shopping, she goes directly to the dented cans and "Yesterday's Baked Goods" section...and then barters with the teenage cashier.
And this is before we even get into the fact that there is a mysterious disease of biblical proportions currently making its way through the locker room at Trigoria. Because going at this rate they aren't going to be able to field a full eleven in December. Healthy people only need apply, please. Alright, not really. But stay healthy in the shirt, you hear?
So, from what I've seen, I hope this guy comes based on talent alone, and if a player should come out soon, I think it would be fantastic for the sport. Difficult in the short term, but necessary in the long run. If, and this is a big if as he has denied being gay, Richarlyson is gay, then he should be embraced as any other Roma player. Anyone else who does otherwise has no place here, and doesn't deserve to be a Roma fan in the first place.