After earning a dream move to a London Premier League club, ‘Wonderkid’ Bradley McGuire should be on top of the world. The reality? He’s faced with callous friends, a hostile changing room, vitriol-filled messages on social media and, crucially, Bradley's having to deal with himself. Wonderkid highlights the key issue - why should his sexuality be an issue? 

Kick It Out spoke to the filmmaker, and former Raise Your Game mentee, Rhys Chapman about  Wonderkid, homophobia in football, and his LGBTQ+ heroes.

Rhys, tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m a filmmaker and huge football fan with a passion for telling authentic stories that send a strong message.

You are the creative brain behind the 2016 film, Wonderkid, which tells the story of a gay professional footballer. What inspired you to tell that story?

I wanted to create a film about football that would have a positive impact. I looked at things like racism, gambling and addiction, but homophobia seemed like the one issue that hadn't been properly addressed. 

What is it about the men’s professional football environment that makes it so difficult for gay players to be their true selves?

I guess it’s the imperfect storm of a traditionally macho environment along with the tribal nature of the game. But I hope with this new generation of players coming through who are confident to speak out and be themselves that it’ll only be a matter of time before this changes.

The film came out in 2016. Have you seen any progress in LGBT inclusion in football since then?

It felt like the issue started to gain momentum when all the key stakeholders in football universally gave their support to the Rainbow Laces campaign that year, but since then, we have become ever-increasingly divided as a nation, and I think the number of high profile players suffering racial abuse online has had a knock-on effect.

You attended one of our Raise Your Game conferences in 2014. Did you find it a useful step on your journey to where you are now?

It was integral. The people I met and the contacts I made were essential to making the film a reality. It meant the world to join Troy Townsend travelling up and down the country educating academy players when the film was complete. Many of those young players have gone on to make their Premier League and international debuts and some have even won the Champions League. Having seen the work around education Troy does in the game, it’s no surprise that we’re now seeing players coming through who to speak openly and show their true characters.

 

Any advice for young people looking to start a career in film, media or sport?

I would encourage anyone to pursue their passion wholeheartedly because, even though it can be tough, 10 years ago, I was working on building sites with little hope in life, now I get to do what I love every day.

This month is LGBT History Month. What does the month mean to you? Why is it important we celebrate it?

You would hope that a time comes where history is inclusive and representative of everyone, but until then, LGBT History month acts as a great platform to educate and inform people each year.

Are there any LGBTQ+ heroes or icons that you admire?

I admire players like Thomas Hitzleperger, Casey Stoney, Robbie Rogers, Anton Hysen, Jaiyah Saelua and more recently, Josh Cavallo, along with journalists like Jon Holmes at Sky Sports leading the way reporting on LGBTQ+ issues in sport.

For more info on Wonderkid, visit http://www.wonderkidfilm.co.uk/