By Zack Jenkins
Despite mounting support in the field of professional athletics worldwide, one gay player in Germany’s premier Bundesliga league isn’t quite ready to come out. In what he called a “first step,” he chose to complete an interview anonymously for Fluter Magazine in what he said reveals quite a lot about the undue pressures of LGBT athletes.
His issue is not that his teammates wouldn’t accept him. They all know. It isn’t that the league would hate him. Most of the players know (and don’t have a problem with it). The major issue is whether or not he can take the additional pressure of becoming a gay icon in sports.
“Of course [the pressure is immense]. The price for living my dream in the Bundesliga [League] is very high. I have to put on an act and deny my true self. At first it was a huge game and no problem, but as time passes it has taken its toll on me. I’m not sure I can stand the strain that comes with being a model heterosexual player and me potentially being found out until the end of my career.”
If everyone knew, he continued, “My passion – football – would be irrelevant.”
In a time where endorsement deals are starting to come in, this player wants the focus to be on his athletic performance instead of the gossip about whom he’s running around town with. But he also stated that if he were publicly outed, he wouldn’t feel safe going back into a stadium.
“In a situation like that one, in the stadium, or after the game, the slightest provocation will be blown out of proportion. I would not be safe if my sexuality was out in the open.”
For the past week the interview has created a rather large buzz around the issue and in the sport. So large in fact that Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in, voicing support for the player and his eventual decision to come out.
Merkel said, “I’m of the opinion that anyone who has the strength and bravery to do it — we in politics have been down this road — should know that he lives in a country were he should not have to be afraid. That there is still fear out there, because of the particular context, is something we have to take into account, but we can give a signal: ‘You don’t need to be afraid.’”
The athlete has declared that his interview was a trial run, to gauge the type of support or animosity he would receive. In the immediate future he has no plans of making his identity public, but in the long run, “A bit of normality would make me happy,” he said. “Just to go openly with a potential partner to a restaurant. That’s a dream.”
To read the English translation of his interview, click here.