Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kick it Like Ian Roberts

Ian Roberts is a famous gay Australian rugby player - and I picked his name for the headline because he's the closest you will get to a gay soccer player. Here in Berlin it's all about the World Championship these days which starts tomorrow. Homosexuality in soccer (or football as we call it here) seems to be the last taboo in sports - they exist but they don't come out! Some years ago English soccer player Justin Fashanu came out but experienced hell and committed suicide eight years later. Apparantly the British Sports Minister tried to convince other soccer players to come out and set an example and help fight homophobia in soccer - but no luck there!
Yesterday a gay organization revealed a billboard that will be all around Berlin during the championship showing two male soccer players kissing (sorry don't have a picture yet) - and the Berlin Mayor - who was present and is openly gay - wondered why on earth there are no gay professional soccer players. Well they sure exist and if a rugby player can come out - it is after all the most brutal macho sport! - then I think a soccer player should be able to do the same. If they can endure the pain of getting their shin bones kicked every week, not to mention a hard ball kicked right into your crown jewels, you should think they would be brave enough to be out...
It's similar when it comes to the German women's soccer team. Their most popular player is Birgit Prinz, who looks so much like a dyke but says she is hetero. I heard her say in an interview a while ago that there are a quite a few lesbians in the German team (oh really? why am I not surprised) but that they are afraid to come out. And Germany's player Steffi Jones stated that the lesbian players will never come out because they are afraid to lose their sponsors and also fear that they won't get a trainer license later on after their player career.One of Germany's best players ever Martina Voss got kicked out of the national team right before the Olympics in Sydney. At the time the real reason was kept secret but it soon got out: she had had to skip a local match because she had problems in her relationship with her girlfriend, also a soccer player. When the higher ranks of the conservative German soccer federation found this out she had to leave. Imagine they would do that to a popular straight soccer player. If Beckham were to have a bad day because he had a fight with bitchy Victoria the guys would pat him on the back, probably tell him to either dump her or get his act together and then on with the show!
The Voss incident is a few years back and she is now out and even works as a trainer. And maybe today if the kicking gals were to come out, it wouldn't be such a big thing - now that Europe has seen the L-Word and gay marriage is a-ok. Might be worth a try girls! And anyway, most people think female soccer players are dykes anway, so what the heck.
You can test your gaydar with the photo of the German soccer team below - but it might take many years to find out if you were right.

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I can understand sports figures not wanting to come out. Their careers often are determined by their image. Sponsors are attracted to popularity, and if there's anything about you that makes you less popular in the public (like maybe being gay) then you might scare away the sponsors. It's tough to be gay and high profile at the same time. Few celebrities are able to pull it off successfully.
gd girl: sure, if your career and income depends on staying in the closet it's totally understandable and nobody should be blamed for doing so. the sad thing is of course a society - and the media - that allows for this situation. here in germany many celebs have come out during the last years, even people who work in conservative environments from city mayors to bavarian country singers (their fans are usually very conservative) - the more come out, the more follow, which is such a positive trend here. those who did it first were very courageous to do so, and after some scandals in the media are now being rewarded by the increasing perception that this is just another way of living your life. maybe one day the soccer industry will follow - but I'm sure it will take the first brave soccer player to come out and show the world that being a good kicker has nothing to do with your sexual orientation.
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