Anders Lindegaard and the likelihood of silent gay soccer players

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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.

Conte drops hint about his plans for attacking unit

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LONDON — Antonio Conte‘s decision to play a fluid front three of Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro worked extremely well against Barcelona in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw on Tuesday, but will he use that trio again in big games coming up?

[ MORE: Conte’s tactical masterclass ]

For the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash at Stamford Bridge, Conte left his two recognized strikers, Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, on the bench and opted for Hazard centrally with Pedro and Willian close by in wide roles.

Hazard went close twice, Willian twice hit the post before scoring Chelsea’s goal via a pass from Hazard and Pedro chased down Barca’s defense and helped set the tempo for a fine display which should have seen Chelsea win by at least two goals.

[ MORE: Three things learned from Chelsea-Barca

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk after the draw with Barca if he was happy with Hazard’s play in a false nine helped out by Willian and Pedro, Conte seemed to suggest that front three will be Chelsea’s attacking unit moving forward.

“I think our three strikers played very well, a fantastic game,” Conte said. “Willian, he played really well against Hull [in the FA Cup] and he scored twice and in the last three games we scored eight times and seven goals we scored with Pedro, Willian and Hazard. I think that they’re working very well. We must be pleased for the game, not for the final result.”

With huge games coming up against both Manchester clubs in the next few weeks in the Premier League, plus the second leg at Barcelona on Mar. 14, it appears Conte may well go with the in-form trio to create as much havoc as possible for opposition defenders.

Hazard in a false nine is an intriguing situation to unravel as the Belgian is almost certainly better suited to playing in a wide role or as a No.10 just off a targetman such as Giroud or Morata, but in this 3-4-2-1 system he has the freedom to interchange with Pedro and Willian and to roam across the forward line.

Having Giroud or Morata as Plan B seems to be Conte’s plan moving forward and against teams such as Man City, Man United and Barcelona, it may well suit Chelsea best to keep things tight defensively and unleash their speedy, tricky trio on the break.

Conte’s tactics to not start with an out-and-out striker may be questioned by many but if it works half as well as it did on Tuesday, expect Hazard, Willian and Pedro to be Chelsea’s go-to guys in a season-defining few weeks for the reigning PL champs as they aim to cement their spot in the top four, reach the FA Cup semifinal and advance in the Champions League.

Blatter: 2026 World Cup should be in Morocco

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has backed Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid as he hit out at the joint-bid between the USA, Mexico and Canada.

The 81-year-old claims that joint bids for a World Cup are to be “rejected” after the 2002 World Cup and with voting for the 2026 hosts to take place on June 13 in an expedited process, it appears Morocco is gaining some traction among FIFA’s 209 member associations as the only alternative to a North American bid.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada bid to host the first-ever expanded 48-team tournament still seems to be the overwhelming favorite, but will comments like this help or hinder Morocco’s bid?

Blatter, the disgraced former long-time leader of world soccer’s governing body, is currently banned from all soccer related activity for six-years after being charged regarding a $2 million payment made between himself and the former UEFA President, Michel Platini.

Here’s the message Blatter sent out via Twitter, as the Swiss official is reportedly launching an appeal against his current ban which came after he announced he would step down as FIFA president in 2015 following several high level officials being charged with corruption by U.S. officials.

It is also worth noting that Blatter is still concerned about being extradited to the USA amid the ongoing FBI investigation into widespread corruption in the organization and doesn’t travel outside of Switzerland or Russia.

Brazil’s Gremio wins Recopa Sudamericana in penalty shootout

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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s Gremio has won the Recopa Sudamericana, beating Argentina’s Independiente 5-4 in a penalty shootout Wednesday night.

The two-legged final ended 1-1 on aggregate, with no goals scored after 120 minutes in the second.

The winners of last year’s Copa Libertadores overcame the holders of Copa Sudamericana after goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe stopped the last penalty of the series, taken by Independiente’s striker Martin Benitez.

The Recopa is played between the champions of South America’s two most important tournaments.

Independiente played most of the match down to 10 players after defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off after 38 minutes.

The Brazilians made most of the pressure until the end of extra time, but failed to score.

Gremio also won the Recopa in 1996.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.