Men kissing men

MWAH! With his right hand tenderly cupping the back of Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah’s head, team-mate Chris Heighington plants a kiss on Farah’s cheek, an event that occupied most of the front page of a Sydney newspaper yesterday. Because of that prominence the act involving two consenting boofy footballers confronted anyone who walked to the stand of newspapers in a newsagency yesterday.

Was it more acceptable for the fact that Heighington was expressing sympathy to the bereaved Farah? Was it less acceptable for occurring at Hunter Stadium rather than Sydney, where everyone expects guy friends to kiss? Did Heighington give the ‘‘mwah’’?

I’ve seen in Sydney, and to a lesser extent in Newcastle, that the steroid boys have taken to a formatted embrace that puts them dangerously close to kissing. One gives notice of an impending embrace by raising the steroid-puffed and inked left arm, the target raises his steroid-puffed and inked left arm and they come together, hooking the arms around each other’s neck and the right arm around the other’s back as they nuzzle cheek to cheek. Brothers in arms.

Maybe they’ll move onto the Heighington-Farah smooch, cupping the back of the head tenderly. Much more delicately new age.

There was nothing delicate about the slobbering of the original sportsground kisser, Merv Hughes. At least I think the luxuriantly moustached cricketer was the original. Who could forget his sticking his tongue into Allan Border’s ear? So long as it’s out of sight, he’d say.

Merv’s passion for onfield kissing was even rebuked from the bench. In 1989 an Alice Springs magistrate sentencing a man for revealing his buttocks in a cafe accused Merv of encouraging indecency off the field with his ‘‘homosexual-type behaviour’’ and ‘‘unmanly activities’’ on the field, and he said the kissing of the Australian cricket team was objectionable and not normal.

It is normal now. When they’re not celebrating a wicket or a direct hit on a seagull with mutual slurping, cricketers like to leap into each other’s arms for an intimate pelvis-chest embrace, which might be why the marriage of Australian captain Michael Clarke took the nation by surprise.

Footballers are even more intimate, a tendency that may explain their enthusiasm for the scrum. They spend a lot of time lying on top of each other, and they’re prone to expressing mutual appreciation by patting each other on the buttocks as they’re pulled off at half time. And soccer games involving adult males should be rated MA for mature audiences.

For many years Australian men have been permitted to satisfy their urges for fun and games on the sporting field, perhaps as the reward for their being heroes or at least role models. Off the field they’re supposed to direct their lust at women, although there has been a tad too much of that in recent years.

For three weeks from this Saturday there’ll be much male-male kissing on Australian television screens at the end of each stage of the Tour de France, but that, you’ll know, is a cultural thing. The French, Italians, Greeks and other continental people kiss twice or thrice on the cheek regardless of gender and for the same reason we have the air kiss in Australia.

Our air kiss is between women and between men and women but never between men. The air kiss has yet to make the field, because male-male kissing in sports arenas is a much wetter affair than the dry air peck, and the Heighington smooch appears to be a case in point.

Still, I’m certain that with our kissing role-model sportsmen and kissing multiculturalism it’s only a matter of time before Aussie blokes are brushing lips against stubble. I’m uncertain as to whether male-male handholding will arrive sooner or later, but given soccer players’ penchant for it and the interlocking fingers of new Australian males from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Africa and The Mediterranean it will arrive.

Sydney’s boofy footballers will probably demonstrate both when next they arrive for slap and tickle at Hunter Stadium.

Should footballers quell their affection for each other onfield? Is men kissing men the new emasculation?

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