Ahead of tomorrow's match against Rotherham, Proud Canaries' Di Cunningham talks Zimbo, inclusion, and cake.
He’s caused happy tears twice today, I can’t stop thinking about him, he means everything to me...
This might not be the best intro to a piece on Rainbow Laces: I identify as a gay woman, but right now I’m in love with a man.
I’m in love with Norwich City’s Christoph Zimmermann.
The defender joined the Along Come Norwich Podcast team this week and shared the #RainbowLaces Rainbow Cake (baked in Delia’s Norwich City Kitchen & delivered by club Sponsor Aviva). As the crew ate they discussed the philosophy behind Stonewall’s campaign. Zimbo’s calm rationale for LGBT+ inclusion and acceptance seems inarguable common sense; a cool personal reflection taking in logic, history and science with a generous portion of empathy.
Christoph references the tragic struggle of the only ever out elite male player in the world - Norwich City’s Justin Fashanu (Christoph was 5 when Fashanu ended his own life), and the negative impact on mental health of not being able to be oneself. The players’ dressing room Zimbo describes is one that promotes the attitude “Be the person that you really are” and he is categoric in asserting its inclusive credentials … “it would not be a problem at all for a player to come out ”
Zimmermann makes it sound so simple; if we were all on Zimbo’s page there would undoubtedly be top tier male players who felt able to come out; talk about partners and relationships with team mates - in the same way as straight players do - without feeling vulnerable to hatred or bullying. And there’d no longer be a need for the Proud Canaries supporters group or Proud Canaries FC.
But while there are still people in football who don’t share Zimmermann’s engaging outlook we need those platforms to try to help everyone feel safe and welcome. And just as crucially – we need allies – which is what the Rainbow Laces campaign is all about; visible solidarity.
Which brings me to more confessions of excessive passion; more misty eyes and lashings of love for a whole bunch of people – most of them guys. I’m in love with Along Come Norwich, I’m in love with Barclay End Norwich – I’m pretty much enamoured with every Norwich City Fan group and fan.
When we were exploring the potential of an LGBT+ supporter group at Carrow Road in September 2013 I remember admiring the solidarity of the antifa and füssball gegen homofobie movements in German football; the idea that fans could sort many of the game’s problems themselves. I had a number of wishes for the group and the club: to make the stadium more welcoming for the LGBT+ fan base (see them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff1_5yXu5WU) several of which I thought unlikely to happen. In the five years since Proud Canaries were founded every single one of those ambitions has been achieved (and exceeded).
And one pipe dream, completely unrealistic and so up till now unarticulated, will be realised tomorrow. It’s a tangible example of supreme fan collaboration – different groups, representing diverse interests working together to support their team in the most powerful way, deploying creativity, logistics, team work, (and crucially fund raising skills!) to celebrate the club’s history and diversity and generate a winning atmosphere. Shortly before the Norwich v Rotherham kick off, keep your eyes just to the right of the Barclay end goal – and beware happy tears - as a huge banner memorialising one of the club’s greats surfs the stand.
You could say it’ll be the icing on the Proud Canaries 5th Birthday cake – but the commitment to do what’s right runs throughout our club – like the spectrum of sponge in Delia’s Rainbow Cake, from the supporters and fan groups to the Board. OTBC!