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Why have German gay players not finally dared to come out?

  • On 17 May, several football players working in German men’s professional football were going to come out of the closet. Players in secret and behind the backs of the clubs, but the high expectations have remained nothing, nobody has come out of the closet. The male football models, fears and ghosts are coming back.

22 May 2024 - 06:02
Last updated: 10:27

The objective of Free Sport is to create a safe platform for professional athletes to leave the closet to take the step as a team, and for this purpose the platform has been supported by professionals, clubs and amateurs. The initiative kicked off on 17 May, when several Bundesliga players publicly spread their homosexuality and told their story with the help of former footballer Marcus Urban, whom he said was gay when he retired. Urbane has been working on the platform for years, and already commented that there were similar initiatives, but that at the last moment some of the players retired and everything was suspended, but this time the gay soccer players had created a network between them, which were secretly involved, which were many and which had the will to come out publicly. “Some are under psychological treatment, they can’t do more.”

"Being strong, brave, competitive… are values, a marked heteronormativity is predicted, in which homosexuality is read as weakness"

About to arrive on May 17, Urbane smoothed the speech and expectations: “Professional footballers are putting a stop, they are very prudent, no one dares leave the model.” And so it has happened: on 17 May in the Diversero platform no professional player has reported their homosexuality (there are only cases that were previously public, none of them being a Bundesliga player). “Thanks to this platform, on the 17th of each month professionals have the opportunity to make their sexuality public and will arrive at some point, perhaps when no one expects it.”

What about football?

It is abnormal that no gay football players are known, only isolated cases are public. “The hegemonic and traditional masculinity predominates in male professional football: being strong, brave, competitive… are values, a very marked and clear heteronormativity is predicted, values in which homosexuality is read as weakness, difficult to combat. Same in other very masculine sports (rugby, boxing…). In the locker rooms, in the trainings, the same language as in the stands is often homophobic, the ‘don’t be pale, looks like a little girl’ are common and the gay athlete does not identify it as safe space,” explains Ana Vilanova in Ara.cat. Vilanova, director of the Catalan Sport Observatory, has carried out an investigation into sport and homosexuality.

"You don't know what's going to happen in the locker rooms, what reaction the amateurs will have, how it will affect the advertising and sponsoring brands, many are afraid."

The fear of homosexual sportsmen is not strange: “You don’t know what will happen in the costumes, you don’t know what reaction the amateurs will have, how it will affect the advertising and sponsoring brands. But if there is transparency, and the players take the step thanks to the new platform, it will be easier to normalize it, because the others will see that coming out of the closet may not have such a serious effect and they will feel that they are not alone, it is always more comfortable on the team”.

Visibility vs intimacy

The exit of professional footballers' cupboards would undoubtedly be an aid because the referents would facilitate other footballers to opt for this path, because it would normalize that non-heterosexual players could live their sexuality naturally and freely, because children would not have internalized since they were young that in the world of football there are no homosexuals, that football is not for the palike, and would even be a stimulus for the development and expression of their sexuality.

"We cannot force very personal and intimate processes. Visibility requires powerful networks of mutual surveillance. We want to break the closets, but taking care of what's inside"

At the same time, the respect and protection of the rhythms themselves is fundamental, as Ibai Fresnedo stressed in ARGIA: “Because of the passion that arouses the visibility of LGBT people in the struggle for sexual liberation, we sometimes pressure those who remain in the closet to come out, and that is also violence. We cannot force very personal and intimate processes. Visibility must be based on powerful mutual care networks and deep self-defence pedagogy. That is, we want to break the closets, yes, but taking care of what is “inside”.


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