A top German professional soccer player fears he could be attacked by fans and even by other footballers if he goes public with his sexuality and officially comes out.
“I don’t know whether I will be able to take the constant tension between [being] the model heterosexual player and the possible discovery until the end of my career,” the unnamed top flight player said in an interview with Germany’s Fluter magazine.
He told them women friends act as “beards” at public events to disguise his sexuality, acting as his girlfriends. He confesses sadly that his last gay relationship was “poisoned” and destroyed by all the secrecy.
The German player thinks the increased media attention regarding his private life would have a big and detrimental impact on the pitch for him. “In the situation in a stadium or after the game, any tiny thing within the group would be made into a big deal.” More worryingly, he added, “I would no longer be safe if my sexuality was to be made public.”
He is not however an isolated case, there are other gay yet closeted sportsmen who share the same feelings, worries and anxieties. “I would love to come out and be open about my sexuality, but I just don’t think the UK is ready for an openly gay player yet.” a UK based professional football player told me in secret earlier this week.
“We thought racism was a thing of the past, but then you had that John Terry and Anton Ferdinand business and you hear the occasional racist remark or chant from the terraces and you realise that perhaps we haven’t moved forward as far as we thought we had.” he tells me.
“If we haven’t stamped out racism yet and it’s now 2012, what hope have we got for homophobia?”
“There isn’t a training session or a match day that doesn’t pass without some sort of homophobic remark or joke banded about the changing room or on the pitch. Sure, most of it is just banter between guys with ego’s far larger than their IQ’s, but even that can be discriminatory and sometimes hurtful. They just don’t think about it, its a normal part of the ’lifestyle’ and therefore its accepted and if its accepted then its considered to be ok.”
“Of course there are some deeply homophobic players as well, they say they’d never tolerate a ’queer’ on the team, on the pitch, sharing changing rooms and all that sort of stuff. Thankfully guys like that are getting few and far between, at least I think so, of course I can’t be sure and homosexuality isn’t really talked about a great deal. Unless it is the basis of a joke or something like that, homosexuality is somewhat of a taboo subject.”
In a recent interview with the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) Clarke Carlisle, Kick It Out ambassador and York City player said “You know it is one of the biggest bugbears for me that no player feels able to come out and talk openly about his sexual orientation”.
Clarke said he had spoken with eight gay players recently, “Seven of the eight said they didn’t want to come out because they were worried about the media. Nothing came of our conversations with these players so I guess we are back to square one”.
He continued “You have to understand that the use of language in football, in the changing rooms, between players and managers and of course on the terraces is at a pretty base level… so any player thinking about doing this would need to be very brave”.
Whilst Clarke remains worried that any out gay footballer would be “driven out of the game,” because of pressure from the fans and the media, the anonymous player however believes that’s only part of the fear and an equal amount of pressure would come from within, “Football is run much like an ‘old boys network’ and I don’t think they are either ready to support or willing to accept an openly gay player. There is a lot of hostility there and those attitudes don’t just change overnight.”