Since 2012, no player has openly come out as a homosexual
Homosexuality continues to be a “non-issue” in sports king. So far, few players have gone public, and when they did, it was after they had the last kick in the ball. However, the most popular example was that of Justin Fashanu. The athlete served as a showcase to show how football “was” little prepared to deal with the athletes’ sexual choices. Until now, he was the only athlete in the main English football league to come out as a homosexual as a player. Eight years after breaking barriers, Fashanu committed suicide.
With stints at historic clubs in England such as Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Manchester City and West Ham, he was the first and last player to have the courage to face the world and tell his story. In 1981, he was the most expensive Afro-British player in the Premier League. The world was in shock after revealing its sexual preference to a newspaper in 1990.
Without the acceptance of his professional colleagues and his brother, Justin never recovered good football. He went through 11 different teams since he came out publicly. In the press and among supporters, life outside the field of English football’s only outspoken homosexual was more important than talking about his talent.
Justin would later have his life exposed at The Sun. On one occasion, he was rumored to have a rumored relationship with a married deputy. History has never been confirmed.
Away from England since 1993, he ended his career in 1997, becoming a coach in Maryland, in the United States. However, in February 1998, he was accused of rape by a 17-year-old after a party. Even if the story was not confirmed, the episode would put Justin in trouble, since homosexual acts were illegal at the time in the American state. Afraid of being arrested in another country, he fled to England.
On May 2, 1998, two months after the complaint, Justin Fashanu was found dead in a garage in East London. The cause was suicide. In the last letter he wrote, he said the following:
Justin Fashanu committed suicide at just 37 years of age, eight years after he took over. Three decades later, in 2020, he remains the only player in the main European leagues to come out as an athlete.
Another media case was that of Thomas Hitzlsperger, the German international midfielder announced in 2014, after retiring from football. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he said he did not personally know any player who is gay. Asked about the possibility of other athletes taking on their sexuality while playing, Hitzlsperger believes that “it is possible and it will certainly happen someday”. But the day is slow to come …
The Sun shared a letter from an anonymous Premier League player on July 11, where he confesses to being gay, but afraid to reveal his identity. The player was supported precisely by the Justin Fashanu foundation, run by the late player’s niece, Amal Fashanu.
Amal, aged 31, created the foundation with the aim of mitigating homophobia and racism in football, while raising awareness of the mental problems that can arise from the non-acceptance of the athlete’s sexual nature. The foundation has already helped seven footballers, including two Premier League stars, who are secretly gay or bisexual.
In the letter sent by the Premier League player, it reads: “I am a homosexual. Writing this in the letter is already a big step for me. Only a few members of my family and a select group of friends know that I am. I don’t feel ready to share it with my team or the coach. It’s difficult.”
The athlete says that “sport (football) would have to make radical changes” to be comfortable and to be free from prejudice.
Despite being lucky, as he himself declares, for the money that the profession guarantees him, he fights a complicated battle to maintain his mental health. “For the past year I have had the support of the Justin Fashanu Foundation, even to help me with the impact this is having on my mental health. The reality is that there is still a lot of prejudice in football ”, he lamented.
A study by the School of Public Health at Yale University reveals that 83% of people who identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual do not share information other than with a selective group of people, remaining in the “closet” throughout their lives. The consequences for mental health, he concludes, are harmful.
Recently, Troy Deeney, captain of the English Premier League team, Watford, told a BBC poscast that “there will probably be a homosexual or bisexual in every football team”. “I genuinely believe that if they took over, in the first week, 100 players would come and say ‘me too’, he added.
However, the NGO that fights for LGBT rights Stonewall has already revealed that it would like to talk to Deeney about how an “acceptance environment” could be created for athletes. “There is still a lot of work to be done to make all sports truly inclusive for LGBT people, and we would love to talk to Troy Deeney about creating a more welcoming environment for professional gay and bisexual football players,” said the organization’s director, Robbie de Santos.
Current Brazilian women’s soccer coach Pia Sundhage is an outspoken lesbian. The Swedish trainer did it publicly 10 years ago and is very pragmatic when asked about the subject. “If people ask me about it [being gay], I say, ‘Yes, I’m gay’