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article imageAmerican footballer Robbie Rogers 'comes out'

By Eileen Kersey     Feb 16, 2013 in Sports
Soccer, the so called "beautiful game". A macho game played by alpha males. There are some women's teams but male soccer dominates the scene. This week US soccer player Robbie Rogers took the brave step of "coming out".
News that American soccer player Robbie Rogers, 25, is gay should not be a shock in the 21st Century but for some it still is. Robbie played football for UK team Leeds United until about a month ago.
The last footballer in the UK to "come-out" was ex-Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu. That was in 1990 and eight years later he committed suicide at the age of 37.
It is good to read that Robbie's former Leeds' team-mates have been showing their support via twitter, with comments such as:
"Full respect to @robbierogers and good luck in the next chapter of your life whatever you choose to do," wrote full-back @AdamDrury78
Striker @RossMcCormack44 added: "Wow... Fair play to @robbierogers for coming out. Must of took great courage!!! Take care mate and stay strong!"
Midfielder @ZacThompson23, out on loan at Bury, added: "A lot of respect for @robbierogers Good luck in what ever you choose to do next mate. All the best".
The hope now is that his sexual orientation is ignored. Instead, we should concentrate on the man’s abilities on the soccer field and not the fact that he is gay. This could prove difficult however because Rogers has also announced that he is leaving the sport. The announcement, along with his coming-out, appeared on his blog.
Rogers, who won 18 caps for the US, wrote: "Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently."
He added: "Now is my time to step away. It's time to discover myself away from football."
Best wishes for the future are sent to Rogers. However, the news that last year the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) had been engaged in discussions with eight gay players but that none of them wished to go public, is disconcerting.
Ruth Hunt, Director of Public Affairs for lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall said that although it was good news Rogers felt able to come-out it was a shame this was only after leaving the game.
"Homophobia remains rife in soccer and we must work together to stop it for the sake of the game" said Hunt.
Of course coming-out must be down to personal choice but there is always the risk that the media may force a player’s hand.
Top-name British soccer players are highly paid celebrities, not just sportsmen. This means that a player’s private life is far from private. The media and public like to chew over the fine details of the person's life. It could be their family life, their wealthy lifestyle, their affairs or their sexual orientation.
Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is a prime example. As a foolish, young, rising football star fame and fortune went to his head. A string of public scandals almost ruined his career and personal life.
The difference in the case of Rogers though is it is not about his choices in life. It is about who he is. Being gay is permanent. It is not a lifestyle choice. It is a brave choice to come-out.
In some ways the 21st Century is becoming more bigoted than ever before. Of course we hide behind an appearance of free-thinking but that is not the reality. Xenophobia for instance is running riot in many western countries.
It is all too easy to imagine the derision a football player could experience if he came-out. Fans in the stands at games use any and every opportunity to undermine the opposition. The media, fellow players and more though could mean that coming-out involves running a gauntlet too hard to bear.
More about Football, Soccer, Leeds, LGBT, Homophobia
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