A German soccer player in the country’s preeminent league, the Bundesliga, gave an interview last week in which he discussed the possibility of coming out, albeit anonymously. The article has since caused a major buzz and has even led Chancellor Angela Merkel to voice her support.
With the NFL recently making major strides to become more gay friendly, the situation of this German footballer is particularly interesting. He describes the pressures he faces as a role model and the strain of leading a double life that, no doubt, many closeted professional athletes feel, regardless of nationality or sport.
When asked what would be so awful about coming out, the footballer responds:
Footballers…are the living breathing stereotype of masculinity. They have to love sport, fight aggressively, and be great big role models all at once. Gays simply aren’t all that. Period. Or is someone supposed to get up there and educate a raging mob of fans before the game with the message that “the queers” are really just ordinary guys and that they’ll be playing too? It’s unimaginable. 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.
Though he has yet to come out publicly, the soccer player is out to his teammates and insists that not “a single player in the whole of the league has a problem with it.” Some even “pose questions with great interest” about “quite technical things,” regarding his love life since — unlike his heterosexual counterparts — his isn’t splashed across the newspapers.
Since the interview’s publication, Wolfgang Niersbach, head of the DFB (the German equivalent of the NFL) has said the DFB would “offer any help it could” to anyone hoping to bicycle kick their way out of the closet. Niersbach’s predecessor, Theo Zwanziger, was also a proponent for anti-homophobia in the league, though according to the footballer, it’s “so easy to say, if you [don’t] have to go into the stadium on the next game-day.”
Then on Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel offered her two cents, saying that there should be no fear in coming out:
“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.’ ”
In doing this interview, the anonymous athlete wanted to take “the first step” in coming out and expressed hope that in a year he could speak under his own name. With all the official support behind him, however, maybe his dream could come sooner than he had originally hoped:
A bit of normality would make me happy. Just to go openly with a potential partner to a restaurant. That’s a dream.