Bentleigh Football Club’s Dimitri Petrakis speaks out to stop gay slurs on footy field

AN openly gay footballer fed up with homophobic vilification has courageously gone public in a bid to help stamp the archaic behaviour out of the sporting landscape. Sam Landsberger, Sunday Herald Sun August 29, 2015 9:00pm

Dimitri Petrakis was subjected to homophobic abuse in four matches this season.


AN openly gay footballer fed up with homophobic vilification has courageously gone public in a bid to help stamp the archaic behaviour out of the sporting landscape. Bentleigh Football Club’s Dimitri Petrakis was abused in four matches this season with the remarks leaving him feeling lonely and considering walking away from the game he loves. Petrakis, 22, twice copped slurs from opposition players and was heavily targeted by a group of boozy men watching from a truck early in the year. They were aware of his sexual orientation. A fourth episode of lewd crowd behaviour was heard by Petrakis’s boyfriend, Perry Scott, who was watching the game. “When you’re on the footy field you feel invincible with your teammates around you, but when this happens you feel alone,” Petrakis, 22, said. “It’s a shocking feeling. The first time it happened it stayed with me for about a week and I was contemplating not playing anymore. I wasn’t really enjoying footy.” Former AFL midfielder and Athlete Ally board adviser Brock McLean said homophobic vilification could increase the chances of self-harm, noting openly gay people already had higher suicide rates. “It all gets back to education and realising the dangers and impact words can have,” he said. “It’s the same as racist language and there’s so much media about how we need to eradicate that, well homophobia is the next extension.” Dimitri Petrakis with boyfriend Perry Scott. Picture: ANDREW TAUBERThe AFL is likely to grant St Kilda a landmark gay pride game next year after adding a Pride Cup match to this year’s pre-season calendar. VAFA club Uni Blacks yesterday wore rainbow jumpers to celebrate the Gay? That’s OK initiative, driven by gay player Lachlan Beaton. Petrakis wants the Southern Football League to embrace such initiatives and considered dying his hair rainbow colours for the final game of the Division 1 season. The homophobic slurs have also affected the family of Bentleigh coach and former AFL footballer Paul Dimattina. “My daughters (aged eight and 11) were at a game where Dimi got abused,” he said. “They didn’t want to come back to the footy because they couldn’t stand the disgusting stuff they heard coming out of some simple-minded people’s mouths. (Petrakis) is quite courageous, ridiculously hard at the football, he’s super tough, takes a really good grab and runs like the wind. He’s got a lot of ability.” Petrakis joined Bentleigh six years ago and was strongly supported by the club when he came out three years ago. Bentleigh was frustrated when its complaints to the league were dismissed. Petrakis said he could brush off public vilification, but would not tolerate it in his sporting sanctuary and encouraged other gay players to come out. “We (me and my boyfriend) walk down Chapel St at night time and there’s cars with their windows down yelling, ‘fa--ots, p--ftas’ and stuff like that really aggressively. “But the difference with footy is I love my footy and it’s my passion and I never wanted those kind of comments said to me while I was doing what I love doing.” THE BOTTOM LINE “I want it to stop because there’s going to be kids coming through and they’re going to see this stuff happen and it’s going to prevent them from embracing their sexuality because they’re scared.” GAY FOOTBALLER DIMI PETRAKIS “We’re just over having to deal with this workplace. The world has changed and the cycle has turned” BENTLEIGH COACH PAUL DIMATTINA “I was pretty pissed off when I heard it, they’re actually belittling his sexuality. You don’t see anyone gay saying something negative back because we understand what it’s like to be put into that light.”

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