A closeted football player living in the United Kingdom has written an anguished letter to the popular newspaper The Sun detailing life as a closeted gay man. The anonymous player fears coming out would have a detrimental effect on his career.
“As a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a footballer,” the player begins, before going on to detail the excitement of his dream coming true when he entered the professional leagues. “However there is something that sets me apart from most of the other players in the Premier League. I am gay.”
“Even writing that down in this letter is a big step for me,” he admits. The player also claims a few people close to him know the truth about his sexuality, but he feels uncomfortable sharing that detail with his coach or teammates. Though he’s known he’s gay since he was 19, he’s felt a need to keep his sexuality hidden to further his own career. That choice has led him to a lucrative life as a sports star, and left him incredibly lonely.
“But one thing I am missing is companionship,” he confesses. “I am at an age where I would love to be in a relationship. But because of the job I do the level of trust in having a long-term partner has to be extremely high. So, at the moment, I avoid relationships at all.”
Furthermore, the player writes that though the Premiere League ostensibly offers services for players to come out and receive counseling, their offer does nothing to curb systemic homophobia in sports.
“This is missing the point,” the player contends. “If I need a counselor I can go and book a session with one whenever I want. What those running the game need to do is educate fans, players, managers, agents, club owners — basically everyone involved in the game.”
“I wish I didn’t have to live my life in such a way,” he writes. “But the reality is there is still a huge amount of prejudice in football…Footballers are still too scared to make the step while they are playing.”
The player praises former pro footballer Thomas Beattie for coming out last month, though he notes that Beattie had to wait until retirement to come out. The player also pays homage to the Justin Fashanu Foundation, a group that offers counseling services to closeted athletes. The Foundation takes its name from football player Justin Fashanu who came out of the closet in 1990, only to take his own life eight years later. The anonymous player doesn’t want to end up the same way.
“I know it might get to the point where I find it impossible to keep living a lie,” the player fears. “If I do my plan is to retire early and come out. I might be throwing away years of a lucrative career. But you can’t put a price on your peace of mind. And I don’t want to live like this forever.”
There are currently no openly-queer players among pro footballers in the UK, though–much like the case with sports in the USA–commentators and rumors predict that the league has several gay players who, like the author of this anonymous letter, stay in the closet for fear of hurting their careers.