Robbie Rogers, a former US national team midfielder and 2008 Olympian, announced in a blog posting on Friday that he is gay and that he is retiring from soccer at age 25.
Rogers, whose four-year stint with the Columbus Crew included a Major League Soccer title in 2008, played briefly for Leeds United this season, but left the club after a loan deal to English League One side Stevenage expired last month.
In a blog posting linked to his Twitter account, Rogers made an emotional revelation under a message that simply said, “Just getting some sh*t off my chest.”
“For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show who I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams,” Rogers wrote.
“Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently,” he wrote.
“Life is simple when your secret is gone. Gone is the pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret,” Rogers wrote.
Rogers, whose most recent of 18 appearances for the US squad came in 2011, said soccer was a refuge for him as he fought personal issues.
“I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined,” he wrote.
Rogers scored two goals for his country, including the first goal by the US side with former German international Jurgen Klinsmann as coach, netting the equalizer in the 73rd minute of a 1-1 home friendly draw with Mexico in 2011.
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of England’s Professional Footballers Association, responded to Rogers’ announcement by saying: “It’s no bad thing that he’s been brave enough to come out. We know of players who are playing who are gay who’ve not had that confidence as yet. But, as the rest of the world becomes more civilised, hopefully that will come.”
Rogers’ statement was met with messages of solidarity from several leading US soccer players on social media.
“100 percent love and support for one of my best friends Robbie Rogers. You will be missed on the pitch. Amazing talent, amazing person,” said midfielder Sacha Kljestan, a US teammate who plays in Belgium with Anderlecht.
Former US national team goalkeeper Kasey Keller said he hoped to see Rogers back in the game.
“The bravery of Robbie Rogers is commendable, I hope he realizes that he doesn’t need to retire. He will be more supported than he knows,” Keller wrote on Twitter.