US international Robbie Rogers has said it is “impossible” to remain in soccer after publicly declaring your homosexuality. The 25-year-old, who last played for English second-tier side Leeds United, said last month he was stepping away from the game after becoming only the third professional player to announce he was gay.
“In football it’s obviously impossible to come out,” Rogers said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper on Friday. “Imagine going to training every day and being in that spotlight?”
“It’s been a bit of a circus anyway,” he said, adding that the reaction of his teammates was an issue he had to contend with when deciding whether to come out while still playing.
The California-born player, who has 18 international caps, also played for Heerenveen in the Netherlands and made 106 league appearances for US club Columbus Crew before moving to Leeds United and then going on loan to League One (third tier) Stevenage.
His time in England though was blighted by injuries, and he was released by Leeds in January.
“I know things will change. There will be gay footballers. I just don’t know when and how long it will take,” Rogers said.
“The next step is how do you create an atmosphere where men and women feel it’s OK to come out and continue to play? It’s a great question,” he said. “Football has so much history. It’s a great sport with so much culture and tradition. But I’m positive there will be changes.”
Rogers, who last appeared for the US in 2011, explained his doubts before he decided to make his sexuality known.
“I was very fearful how my teammates were going to react. Was it going to change them? Even though I’d still be the same person would it change the way they acted towards me — when we were in the dressing room or the bus?” he asked.
“Adding the gay aspect doesn’t make a great cocktail,” he said, and admitted he did not know whether he would be able to stand up to the likely abuse he would receive if he carried on playing.
“I might be strong enough, but I don’t know if that’s really what I want. I’d just want to be a footballer. I wouldn’t want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you’re gay?” he asked.
He was also concerned by the reaction of opposition fans and the media.
“If you’re playing well it will be reported as: ‘The gay footballer is playing well and if you have a bad game it’ll be: ‘Aw, that gay dude, he’s struggling because he’s gay.’” Rodgers said.
Only two other soccer players have previously publicly said they were gay — former England under-21 international Justin Fashanu who committed suicide in 1998 aged 37, eight years after coming out, and Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen, son of former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysen.