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It is has taken 23 years, but British football again finally has an openly gay footballer. Or they did have because former Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers announced his retirement at the same time so the reaction from the terraces and dressing room will never be known.
But the timing from Rogers again exposes the fact that no professional footballer is willing to come out in fear of the repercussions. The culture of the dressing room and the reaction from fans are the major reasons. My background is non-league football and I have never seen homophobia, but I’m sure higher up the football pyramid it is a major problem – certainly in football’s ‘trouble spots’.
It is a real shame that Rogers did not come out while still playing because it would have changed the landscape of English football. The effect would have been positive and more gay footballers would have been persuaded to reveal their sexuality. Swede Anton Hysen is currently the only openly gay professional footballer, but his decision to come out has had no effect in this country. It is going to have to take a big name to come out for there to be a ripple effect.
While at first it would be difficult because human nature says there will be always a few that would be initially uncomfortable with their sexuality – whether that is on the terraces or in the dressing room.
Homosexuality is a huge taboo subject in football, but it needs a gay role-model. If one player comes out, others will follow and homosexuality will no longer be a taboo subject.
It will happen, it is just a matter of time. However, for gay footballers and supporters, Rogers’ decision to retire at the same time is a huge missed opportunity.