It’s all about context. For you or I to say soccer needs a prominent player to declare his homosexuality would be so mundane as to border on a truism. Oh, so you think it would be a good thing if players worked in an atmosphere where being open about their sexuality would face no repercussions? Please, tell me more about your epiphany.
That we even use the pronoun “his” in this conversation shows how perverse the topic is. Among female players, the presence of homosexuals is a non-issue. Megan Rapinoe’s confirmation of her sexual identity only made waves among people who aren’t fans of women’s soccer. Hopefully those waves serve to highlight the fact that this really shouldn’t be an issue.
In the men’s game, it’s still a big deal. As many outlets have noted today, there hasn’t been an openly gay active male soccer player since Justin Fashanu (who played in the English First Division as well as for various teams in North America). Fashanu came out in 1990 and continued playing until 1997 (passing away in 1998).
David Testo is another exception of sorts. Last November, the former Montreal Impact midfielder made public the fact he was gay, but he also said his family, teams, and teammates were aware of his sexuality. It’s important to note: Us not knowing about gay footballers doesn’t mean they’re also unknown to their teammates.
Statistically speaking, it’s impossible that aren’t a lot more David Testos out there. According to a recent survey, approximately one in 28.5 adults in the United States identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual, a number that certainly understates the case (many people are still reticent to be open with their homosexuality).
Per the numbers, there should be a handful of homosexual men in each major league. Even if you wish to posit homosexuals are less likely to make a living in professional sports, there should still be six-to-eight gay, first team players in each big professional league.
And there likely are. They just aren’t playing in an environment where being open is conducive to a long, professional career.
Which brings us to Manchester United goalkeeper Andres Lindegaard, who decided to take up the issue in a blog for a Danish betting site. His thoughts aren’t any more revolutionary than the mundane truisms we might overhear elsewhere, but the fact they’re coming from an active player at a prominent club make them newsworthy.
According to the Red Devils’ co-No. 1, the gay community is in need of a hero, and soccer culture (specifically fans, not players) need to change.
Here are his words, as distributed by the Telegraph:
“Homosexuals are in need of a hero,” Lindegaard said in his blog. “They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality. But homosexuality in football is a taboo subject and the atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough.
“As a footballer, I think a homosexual colleague would be afraid of the reception he could get from the fans, but my impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual.
“The problem for me is that a lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserve to be compared with modern society’s development in the last decades.
“While the rest of the world has been more liberal, civilised and less prejudiced, the world of football remains stuck in the past when it comes to tolerance.
“To turn a blind eye only indicates that one is not recognising that there is a problem.”
Lindegaard fears that promising footballers could be lost to the game as a result of their sexuality.
“Of course there is a problem if young homosexuals, who love football, have to quit the sport because they feel excluded.” Lindegaard said. “That is in every way an unpleasant trend that does not belong in a modern and liberal society.”
Earlier today, we talked about the reception the U.S. Women’s National Team got in Portland – how so many kids see them as heroes for what they do on the field. It would be a naive to think the players’ gender has nothing to do with that. While there were certainly a number of children who just see the USWNT as awesome soccer players, the fact that they’re women soccer players make them icons in a sports world that could use more female representation.
Lindegaard brings up the example of young homosexual athletes who, like those kids at Jeld-Wen, could use some icons, if for not other reason than to help stay on course while navigating the trials toward professional career.
Soccer culture should be open to that possibility.