After he came out in February, Robbie Rogers made no secret of the challenge that being a gay man in the soccer world posed. In fact, initially it was a challenge too great for him, as he announced his retirement from the game after struggles both on and off the field in England.
Now he’s back playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy, with a new lease of life. Seemingly, playing for his hometown club in a familiar environment has helped him overcome this biggest of hurdles. He’s indicated that continuing a career in the UK would have been a bridge too far.
Soccer fans in England are known for an unflinching support of their team. Their ruthlessness can mean some players experience taunts directly targeted at them. Rogers said in a BBC interview that they can get “a little bit overboard sometimes.”
However, regarding his own fans accepting him, Rogers admitted that “at the time I thought it wasn’t possible. But looking back now I think the fans would have been so supportive of me.”
But what about his fellow players?
One of Rogers’ former teammates at Leeds United, Robert Snodgrass, has only praise for the Galaxy star.
“It wasn’t easy for him to come out. Having played with Robbie, he’s a terrific lad. [Soccer] is nothing different at the end of the day, he’s your teammate,” Norwich City’s midfielder Snodgrass told 429Magazine.
“It’s a team game, you’re driving towards something, it doesn’t matter about anyone’s sexuality.”
Rogers, in the letter he wrote coming out last February, paid tribute to those who had his back along the way.
“[Soccer] was my escape, my purpose, my identity. [Soccer] hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined,” said Rogers.
“I will always remember Beijing, the MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates. I will never forget the friends I have made along the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.”
Snodgrass, who tweeted his “full respect” for Rogers in February, says he wants “the best for Robbie in his career” whether that is with LA or otherwise. In sport, where results are the end-all and be-all, he described the difficulty for athletes coming to terms with what a teammate may be facing on a personal level.
“You just don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in people’s private lives.”