While out sports stars aren’t the rarity they once were, from Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham to rugby star Gareth Thomas and most recently England cricketer Steve Davies, being gay in the world of international football remains a taboo. Perhaps hoping that his presence in the game will break that silence is 20-year-old Swedish footballer Anton Hysen who this week disclosed his sexuality to Offside magazine.
Hysen, who plays for Swedish 4th tier side Utsiktens BK, is the son of former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysen and is thought to be the only player currently playing in Sweden to have come out, and is possibly the only player in Europe who is publicly open about being gay at this time.
Hysen is defiant that, while in reality his decision to come out may have an impact on his career, his sexuality should not hinder his chances of progressing to play among the top-flight teams because it makes no difference to his abilities on the pitch.
From Pink News:
“I am a footballer. And gay. If I perform as a footballer, then I do not think it matters if I like girls or boys,” he said.
He admitted that the announcement could affect his career, but pointed out that other players had to deal with issues like racism from coaches and team bosses.
“That is their problem and not mine,” he told the magazine. “People may call me anything they want, it will just make me even more psyched. ”
Hysen senior told the magazine he was pleased his son had decided to come out.
Readers familiar with international football, and British readers in particular, may recall the controversy when Justin Fashanu, a highly acclaimed young British footballer, publicly came out in the 1990s even though his sexuality had been known in footballing circles for quite some time.
With the game suffering under heavily ingrained homophobia, Fashanu’s sexuality contributed heavily to the demise of his career though he clung to footballing life and played for smaller teams at every opportunity. Fashanu tragically took his own life in May, 1998, and while it is true to say that his later years were certainly troubled, it is widely believed that his treatment at the hands of former managers and family members contributed to his suicide.
However, attempts at combating homophobia in the game have been more consistent recently, and while football managers and governing bodies are still known to be advising players not to come out, it is hoped that there will soon be a top-flight player who will disclose that they are in fact gay, not just for the good of the game itself, but because football is a sport so idolized by young people and its influence is no small thing.
A gay footballer like Anton Hysen is to be commended on his bravery then, not for coming out as such but at daring to break the taboo.