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Ted Lasso: Football’s Coming Out

In the winter holidays, I watched all three seasons of award-winning football sitcom Ted Lasso with my mum. It became a nightly ritual, a way to unwind after dinner. We would sit on the sofa, eat chocolate and watch with rapt glee. 


Those who know me will tell you that I am not at all a fan of watching sports, football included. Regardless, I was drawn in by the quick humour and strong friendships that are formed in the course of the show. And then something happened that resonated with me far more than I ever expected. The following will contain minor spoilers for the third and final season – you have been warned!


In the final season of Ted Lasso, it is revealed that one of the players of the fictional football club 'AFC Richmond' is gay. This player is Colin Hughes: average footballer, advocate for Welsh independence and terrible driver. There were small hints here and there earlier on in the show; real ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ ones. Finally, Episode 3 of Season 3 opens with a sweet scene of Hughes and his boyfriend sharing a romantic morning together. It is understated and cosy, but does not hide behind plausible deniability.


As the season unfolds, the pair are spotted kissing by former journalist and great head of hair, Trent Crimm (Independent). Although the show had thus far been as wholesome as a box of of homemade shortbread, I felt a pit in my stomach. I was convinced something bad would happen. As a queer person who grew up on TV shows like BBC Sherlock, my hopes for queer characters on screen to have happy endings tend to skew negative. I was on the edge of my seat, chanting 'Don’t out him, Trent Crimm!' under my breath. But Ted Lasso is simply not that kind of show. Instead, Crimm reached out to Hughes, sharing his own experience of being gay and offering a friendly ear to him. My relief and joy was choked by what Hughes said next. He spoke of the 'ache' that comes with being queer and in the closet, living two separate lives and feeling like something is missing in both. I’m entering this article anonymously. I feel that ache too.



At a match a Richmond fan calls the team the F-slur. The team reacts with anger and sadness, but not shock, because it’s nothing they haven’t heard before. But this awful moment is the catalyst for Colin to come out to his teammates at half time. The team react with love and support, because Ted Lasso is nothing if not relentlessly positive, and when they return to the pitch Hughes plays like he’s never done before. He plays 'like a man reborn'. Like a man reborn. I don’t know which of the many talented writers I have to kiss for including that, but I will find out.


As a nonbinary person, I have had several of those ‘like a man reborn’ moments in the course of my journey. That first haircut had me fizzing for months. Getting rid of my long hair had unloosened something within me. It was clear to me that I could never go back. Nearly a year later I came to terms with being trans, finally putting a name to the way I had been feeling. Nowadays, I have bad dreams about my hair reaching even my shoulders, like one might dream about scoring an own goal.


Then, when I was in Year 9, I came out to my physics teacher. Physics was like football: not something I cared much about, and not something I was particularly good at. He had attended a session of our LGBTQ+ Society so I thought he was safe. I waited until the end of a lesson with an ever-growing pit in my stomach, and asked him if he could call me by my name and pronouns (she/they for five years now!). He pulled out the seating plan, crossed my deadname out and asked me to write my chosen name underneath so he knew how it was spelled. His kindness and acceptance changed me permanently. Before, I was reticent and shy to contribute in class. After, I would raise my hand just so I could hear my name. I remember when he said I could write my name on a test. I may have used an erasable pen and scrubbed it out before showing my parents, but I was never more happy to do an exam. Physics was still not (and never would be) my best subject but for the first time I was looking forward to the lessons. My grades actually improved! This confidence boost spilled over into my other subjects. Parents evening rolled around, and all the teachers noted my sudden enthusiasm in class. My parents were pleased at this shift, if confused as to where it came from, but I knew. I knew.


I came out to my mum as bisexual, and she took it well. I told my physics teacher and he told me that he was proud of me, that he came out to his own parents when he was in his mid-twenties. I was fourteen then. I’m nearly nineteen now. These days my support system is 'Total Football', wide-spanning and reliable, but my parents don’t even know that I’m playing. Well, my mum does, kind of. This metaphor is getting away from me. 


My point is that Ted Lasso broke me down and made me feel seen. That sounds a bit over the top, I know, but not any more dramatic than when footballers pretend to be injured. I feel Colin’s ache for both his lives to be the same, his fear that he might lose his friends and, most importantly, his sheer joy on being accepted and cared for. It is so refreshing that the writers would include both of these sides. In the end he gets what he wants: support from his friends and the chance to kiss his boyfriend after a match, the way his teammates kiss their girlfriends. I was introduced to this show late, but I’m so glad to have seen it. Watch it, if you get the chance. Hold onto art with kindness as its ethos with all you can, and don’t let anyone else get in the way of the warmth it brings you.

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