Homophobia in football, and the lack of openly gay footballers

Embed from Getty Images

In October 2021, Australian footballer Josh Cavallo came out as gay. Cavallo became the first openly gay footballer since February 2013, when Columbus Crew’s Robbie Rogers came out. After the American’s retirement in 2017, the men’s football scene was without an open member of the LGBTQ+ community for four years. Cavallo’s bravery paved the way for 17-year-old Jake Daniels, a Blackpool youth product who came out as gay in May 2022. With hundreds of thousands of professional players worldwide, the fact of the matter remains that more LGBTQ+ members of the footballing community remain in the closet, unwilling to come out.

Embed from Getty Images

But why? Is it the fear of homophobia from spectators? Are footballers not able to feel fully comfortable in their own team environments? Or is there a deeper-lying issue preventing openly LGBTQ+ footballers from making it pro altogether? These are questions that have been lingering for years within the footballing landscape, that few have been willing to answer. The bravery shown by both Cavallo and Daniels could serve as a gateway into showing others that they don’t need to hide who they are. In fact, for both, they cited that as one of the main goals in sharing their own story.

“I hope that in sharing who I am, I can show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome in the football community.”

– Josh Cavallo

Despite that dream, deeper-lying issues continue to exist, particularly when it comes to tackling homophobia and the lack of acceptance that ripples throughout the entire footballing world.

Embed from Getty Images

One of the stranger aspects of the conversation – there are a plethora of openly LGBTQ+ footballers in the women’s game. It’s not as though homophobia or discrimination fail to exist in the women’s game. But perhaps there is more room within the team environments themselves for women to feel accepted to be who they are. Any women’s footballer that comes out as gay knows that they will be supported by a community of other players. That community just so happens to include some of the game’s biggest stars – from Vivianne Miedema to Marta, Megan Rapinoe to Rachel Daly, Pernille Harder and Magdalena Eriksson, all the way to Sam Kerr. If a majority of the game’s biggest stars in the men’s game also came out as LGBTQ+, it’s reasonable to hypothesize that we’d experience a different atmosphere surrounding homophobia in men’s football, and that many others would follow suit in feeling safe to show their true selves.

Embed from Getty Images

But for the time being, we instead see professional players who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community only feeling safe to come out after they retire. In January 2019, former Botafogo footballer Douglas Braga told BBC News that he quit football aged 21, feeling that it was impossible for him to exist in the footballing world as an openly gay man. More famously, German pro Thomas Hitzlsperger came out after retirement back in 2014. He announced then and there that he thought football was on the path toward greater acceptance.

Embed from Getty Images

He was wrong. It took seven more years for another pro footballer in the men’s game to come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. In that time, fans of Premier League clubs have been banned for chanting homophobic remarks on a monthly basis, and even UEFA themselves investigated Manuel Neuer for wearing a rainbow armband in support of diversity and inclusion. Spanish referee Jesús Tomillero received death threats and had to be put under police protection after coming out in 2016; and more recently, Idrissa Gueye of PSG refused to wear a shirt with a rainbow on it. All of these examples point to the fact that the footballing universe is not yet fully accepting of footballers who may identify within the LGBTQ+, contributing toward keeping players in the closet. It’s not just fans. It’s not even just the environments at football clubs themselves. It goes as deep as some of football’s governing bodies; and wider conceptions of masculinity and femininity in sport.

Embed from Getty Images

Hopefully the bravery shown by Cavallo and Daniels will inspire more footballers to do the same, and share with the world an important part of their identity that should not need to be hidden. Unfortunately, the footballing community remains stuck in the dinosaur age, and we may not see that promise come to full fruition until there is a wider shift. If one of the game’s biggest stars were ever to make themselves known as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that may be a positive step. But first the footballing world has to become fully accepting of the idea of an openly gay footballer plying their trade in the men’s game, and provide a safe space for players to be who they are outside of football.


about the author

rhys desmond

CEO, FOOTBALL ANALYST

FOLLOW on social media / contact

Rhys Desmond is the creator of TheMastermindSite.com and the writer behind more than 800 articles found on the site since 2016. Rhys previously held roles as a coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps affiliated club Whitecaps London FC and was the Technical Leader of NorWest Optimist Soccer Club in London, Ontario. He holds a graduate degree in Sport Management & Leadership at Western University and a B.A. in Recreation and Leisure Studies with a Minor in Psychology from the University of Waterloo. Rhys is currently working for a non-profit in Cambridge, Ontario leading recreation programs for kids and youth in a low-income neighbourhood. He also works as a freelance football analyst, open to pro clubs for opportunities.


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY…

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – Player Analysis

Taking the world by storm in 2022-23, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has come from relative obscurity to join one of Europe’s most famous clubs, and now leads their charge toward the top of Serie A. The direct and dynamic wing wizard has been in remarkable form since joining Napoli from Rubin Kazan, contributing to 5 goals in his 7 matches so far this campaign, already close to bettering his tally from 2021-22 in Russia. Here is our analysis of the remarkable rise of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia this season.

Woobens Pacius – Player Analysis

At the start of the 2022 CANPL season, Woobens Pacius appeared to have lost his place at the top of Forge FC’s attack. The Hammers had brought in Pacific icon Terran Campbell, who had haunted Forge among many other Canadian Premier League teams en route to Pacific’s Playoff victory in 2021. But Forge’s attack didn’t fully click in the opening weeks of the season, and they struggled to find the right chemistry, particularly with Campbell’s desire to engage lower on the pitch and support the play. In came Woobens Pacius to restore faith to Forge’s fervid attack, and the Hammers immediately went on a stunning run of form.

Explaining the Inverted Winger – Player Role Analysis

Unlike their name might imply, ‘Inverted Wingers’ are far more than just wingers that cut or drift inside. That is only one small part of an overarching role that prioritizes playmaking in the final third, and dynamically linking play between the other members of the front-line. The best of the art will often post high numbers in goals and assists, but ‘Inverted Wingers’ need to be so much more than just creative goal-scorers – generally tasked with creating space, rotating with teammates, and moving off the ball to exploit the half-spaces at the right moments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s