Mario Gomez, a one-time German Footballer Of The Year who plays for Bayern Munich, just established himself as a 25-year-old friend to gays: He’s breaking the mold and calling for gay soccer players to come out.
“We’ve got a gay vice-chancellor [Guido Westerwelle]; the Berlin mayor [Klaus Wowereit] is gay. So professional footballers should own up to their preference,” says Gomez, who signed a whopping €30–35 million four-year contract last spring. Now he wants more players to come out (though it’s unclear what prompted his call).
Coming out in Germany soccer, however, doesn’t have a great track record: When Marcus Urban came out — the only player to do so while active — his career was promptly thrown into the skids in 1997 when he told his teammates; it was another 10 years before he told the public. There’s also the horror story of Justin Fashanu, the only player to ever publicly come out while playing; he killed himself eight years later in 1998 after being accused of sexual assault.
That, and you’ve got guys like teammate Philipp Lahm, who was captain of Germany’s national team at the World Cup in South Africa, telling Playboy the soccer world isn’t ready for gay players: “A player who chooses to out himself has to carry out his job in front of tens of thousands of spectators.”
Adds Germany’s league president Theo Zwanziger: “The first homosexual who outs himself in professional football will not have an easy time of it. I had thought it would not be the case, because in politics, art and culture it is no longer a problem. Even amateur football deals with it better, but professional football appears to be more set in its ways.”
Does Gomez already know of a gay player who’s yearning to come out, and this might be an attempt to test the climate? One can hope.