A leading German soccer player has urged gay players to come out and called for a radical rethink about homosexuality in the sport.
Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez has broken ranks with the soccer establishment, including members of his own team and the German Football Federation (DFB), who have warned that coming out could destroy a player’s career, but Gomez, who has not said whether he is gay, told a German magazine that being honest about their sexuality would improve gay players’ performance.
“They would play as if they had been liberated,” Gomez said. “Being gay should no longer be a taboo topic.”
The 25-year-old, who was voted German player of the year in 2006-2007, added that there were plenty of role models in the rest of German society to give gay players the courage 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,” he said.
There are no openly gay players in Germany’s Bundesliga, although it is estimated that about 10 percent of players are gay.
The only German player to have come out is Marcus Urban, who told his teammates in 1997 and promptly ended his professional career. The 39-year-old waited until 2007 before going public with his story, saying he had hoped to encourage other gay players and trainers to come out and therefore contribute to more acceptance and tolerance in soccer.
The DFB said that while it was campaigning against homophobia in soccer and would support any player who chose to come out, it could not ignore the problems that would accompany such a decision.
“The first homosexual who outs himself in professional football will not have an easy time of it,” DFB president Theo Zwanziger said.
The only British soccer player to have outed himself while active in the sport was Justin Fashanu in 1990. The Sun tabloid newspaper paid him a six-figure sum to run the headline: “I am gay.”
Fashanu killed himself in 1998 after a 17-year-old boy accused him of sexual assault, a charge Fashanu denied.