My personal story
R: I would have travelled extensively throughout Europe...
I: As a professional soccer player?
R: Yes, as a professional soccer player. So I feel I would have had a pretty much one dimensional view on the European cities from the perspective of being in a controlled framework of... you know, going to hotels, having agenda's to stick to, having people to meet and greet and to look after to and to bring us to various places. So, it was always very, very controlled from that perspective and the cities that I came across were very diverse in terms of being in the former Yugoslavia in the late '70 and '80 versus being in the likes of Paris and what you view sociologically, the wealth and the opulence of Paris visa basically a lot of poverty witnessed in the likes of Yugoslavia. So, that tends to give you a view and a type of people you experience in those travels are probably very, very different than if I travelled alone or with somebody or with a small group and you're just exploring those cities. So, it is hard to, I suppose, in terms of how you view all of these cities when you're in a cocoon environment as a professional footballer. And yet, you see outside the realms of that cocoon, you see various elements of city life going...
I: Buzzling by...
R: Some you find attractive and some you find not so attractive. I suppose that's my view. I travelled in other cities throughout the world and I have seen absolute abject poverty in places like Argentina and Brazil and in Asia. And then, again, opulence in the likes of the US and some of the bigger European cities.
I: What were the big differences that you encountered between men and women because also you were playing soccer so that's a men's world I would presume?
R: Yeah, it's a men's world and again in that realm of being in a predominantly male stream of sport, and when I played professionally - I'm 53 now - but when I played professionally there weren't the opportunities for women in that particular sport at that time. And I'm delighted to see in more modern times, many more opportunities have arisen both educationally and from a sporting perspective for women to look at sport, and particularly soccer, as a way of having and developing a career and a life career. But again there wouldn't be too many women attached to this sport. Unfortunately where the women come into play are the experiences of the kind of afterhours entertaining side of soccer. That’s what sport people are exposed to when the big match finishes and you're out on the entertainment of the city and you are introduced to girls who - for whatever reason and it's very, very hard to decide why girls are presented in such a way, why did they have to do what they do in order to make a living? And there is a stereotypical attitude and I think it is fired by the media that a lot of sports people, a lot of sports personnel engage wilfully with the entertainment services that are provided in, afterhours, after sporting events when you're in a city and you're away. You know, I have to say that many, many times one would look in a complete contrasting way at these services that were provided and look at these people as unfortunate, in terms of... and not kind of be just there and wilfully engage in services such as these. And that certainly over the years...
I: But it was sort of an accepted mentality that that's what you would do after the game?
R: Yes, because it was provided to you, so there in the provision of these services, lay an understanding from whatever perspective, you know, look you're under pressure, the high sports profile, you're playing very, very high in European standard games and now here's the reward: we place you into an environment and feel free to pick and choose! And many, many times I felt: ‘Who am I as an individual person? Who am I to pick and choose another person for my own benefit, for my own sexual benefit, I suppose? Whereas I don't know about that person, I don't know what sort of a life that person has had, have they had any education, have they read books? Have they had a difficult life? Are they doing it actually willingly themselves?’ And that always posed a dilemma for me. And the dilemma is in your mind: 'God, what if this mature 20-something girl was actively engaging in this highly educated, highly articulate, very sociable and is willingly doing this because of their own choice?’ As opposed to my view, which is: 'Why do these people have to sell themselves?’ So, that was always an interesting dilemma for me.
I: And did you talk about these things with other team members? Because you felt a certain ambiguity towards it, but do you think the others felt that too or was there outwardly just a very 'macho' attitude that: 'oh yes, this is our reward and we take it!'.
R: With some people, again in a group mentality, you are always going to get the individuals who say: 'well, to hell with this. It's there, hey it's there, it's part of the whole package, don't question it and enjoy!'. Then there are people who, you know, really shared a view that I would have had. Not because we would have spoken about it, but their own preferences and their own reasons why. You know, all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they were in a deep relationship, perhaps they were actually married, perhaps they felt: 'God, this is a dangerous thing to be engaging sexually with people who you don't really know. If they do this regularly, what are the dangers, etc., etc.' I have to say, there wasn't a collective 'herd mentality' in that respect.
I: There wasn't?
R: There wasn't a herd mentality. One thing that was common. The common denominator was that in most places wherever you travel it's available. And I suppose that leads me to a ‘maybe thoughts’ of a recent trip. Just 2 years ago to a Buddhist country. Extremely Buddhist, and come across as very serene and gentle people and what I found very difficult to take on board was the acceptance that a grown men - much older than myself in terms of age - were allowed societally to have young, basically young children in their company, walking around. And these would be non-local men, they would be mostly European.
I: So really the foreign sex industry?
R: Yeah, you know. That's an element that surprised me relevant to this particular country and the way it's viewed and the way their people are viewed etc., etc.
I: Would that have been Thailand?
R: Yeah, it was Thailand!
I: Because indeed, there is a very big problem there with child prostitution.
R: Yeah, it's absolutely massive! It's absolutely massive! And that throws up the question more so about the, I suppose, the attitudes of the European men as opposed to - I think it is well known that Thailand would be stricken with a high level of poverty, and poverty as we know, can drive the necessity to make money or to try and make an income in any way you can including the sale of children. But if the people who engage in these things are not there, if they're controlled in some sort of a way, it removes the threat to children.
R: But I suppose, from my perspective, being a man definitely helped me in my sporting career. It opened up much more opportunities, being involved in sport and being a man I felt opened up opportunities in my life.
I: Before we go into that, I still have a question about, when you were travelling around Europe with your team and so the sexual, well anyway, the girls were offered after the match. Was it ok to refuse that or? Because you say it wasn't really herd mentality but does that mean that it was ok if somebody refused or you would be regarded as...
R: No, because it wasn't herd mentality locally, it was accepted. Look, you're either going to engage or you're not and it was not for the people who did engage to turn around and make fun of the people who didn't, but equally it wasn't for the people who didn't engage to cast opinion negatively on the people who did engage, so, I suppose, that leaves a burning question: 'why do some people engage and why do some people not?’
I: Did it have to do with being in a relationship? Or maybe for some it did and for some it didn't?
R: For some it did and for some it didn't. But the relationship with a partner didn't define the decision making process because it wasn't identifiable that the people who were in relationships all said no. Do you know what I mean? So, there was no defining, it was more a personal choice. And one thing that surprised me a little bit as well, was in terms of being kind of chauffeured around and being introduced to these services. There would have been female people guides for us who would tell us these places. That would bring us to these places etc., etc. And that's a kind of a little surprise as well and that adds to the intrigue of the question: ‘Why would a girl, again, mature, articulate, probably mostly educated because she has a job and she looks professional, why would a person like that partake in an activity that encourages men to just engage in the services of women for a reward and a payment of money?’ So, that's something that I found to be intriguing.
I: So I see, you say it is intriguing and there is a sort of ambiguity about doing that and then as opposed to the situation in Thailand where there is real child prostitution. That's completely crossing the line.
R: Absolutely, yeah, it is shocking! And it shocked me to my very, to my very core as a human and that one can witness this by the minute in any of the malls in Bangkok and yet...
I: Have there been any campaigns about this in Ireland? Because in Belgium, you know, they really had a government campaign stating that it was illegal to do that and that people would be prosecuted in Belgium if they could prove that they had engaged in child prostitution.
R: Yeah, there hasn't been any such campaign in Ireland as such. In fact there hasn't been really any mention of it and yet kind of under the skin of society, in Ireland, it would be known that a number of people of a mature age - particularly during the years of the Celtic Tiger (economic boom period in Ireland) - would have, if one was to do an analyses of the flight pattern of the numbers of people, leaving aside that the young 19-20 student type that is going out, maybe travel to Australia and maybe stops off - leaving aside that, if you were to look at the relatively mature traffic from Ireland during the Celtic Tiger, there would probably be a surprising statistic of single middle aged men going to Thailand for, to engage in services like that. And again I don't wish to orientate the whole conversation towards that type of - it just stands from my experiences and my prior experiences over the years and travelling extensively throughout Europe and the world. And the availability of services. I think I'm more shocked in recent times that it now is, that now children are freely available. You know, which is a bit of a shock! Because, you know, when you're looking around, the sex industry comprises predominantly in an open way of adults that's the kind of your high street level. And most of them are adults. Well, again it's a question of why, but it is not for me to judge or anything like that.
Gender did matter