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Being an athlete and homosexual: fear of discrimination and taboos win out over 21st century freedoms


The decision of a high-performance athlete to come out as gay remains an outlier. The last brave man was Jakub Jankto.

Surely in a few years a video like the one weeks ago shared by the Czech soccer player

Jakub Jankto

on his Twitter and Instagram accounts will not be the reason for journalistic publications.


the decision of a high-performance athlete to publicize his homosexuality continues to be, in the 21st century, an atypical event


Although he is not the first, the 27-year-old midfielder joined a not too large group of athletes who did so while still active.

His current club, Sparta Prague;

teams whose colors he defended, such as Getafe and Ascoli;

others that did not have him in his ranks, such as Barcelona;

and governing bodies, such as FIFA and UEFA, gave their support to Jankto, who wore the jersey of his country's national team 45 times (he scored four goals).

So did

Markéta Ottomanská

, his ex-partner and mother of David, his three-year-old son.


Jorge Valdano

, who accompanied the support for the player with a criticism of the sport in which he shone:

"That this has to be, these days, an act of courage, seems to me demeaning for football."

“(Homosexuality) In football it is a taboo subject.

Sometimes other players see me, greet me and bow their heads

," said

Nicolás Fernández

in an interview published in

Tiempo Argentino

in February 2020. Eight months earlier, the goalkeeper, who was then 24 years old and worked for General Belgrano de Santa Rosa (a club from the La Pampa Cultural League), had said that he was homosexual, an unprecedented situation for Argentine soccer, in which homophobia is not only naturalized, but is celebrated from the stands.

Justin Fashanu came to play in the England under-21 team.

Outside the borders, the situation is slightly less hostile, although it was not in October 1990, when the Englishman

Justin Fashanu

came out as gay in an interview published in

The Sun

newspaper .

The striker, who had played for several clubs in the English first division such as

Nottingham Forest


Norwich City


Notts County

(and who carried another stigma: being black), earned a majority scorn, banishment and an accusation in the United States for assault against a 17-year-old boy that could never be proven.

He ended up committing suicide in May 1998, when he was only 37 years old.

In his honor, every February 19 (the day of his birth) is commemorated the

International Day Against Homophobia in Sport.

It took many years for other players to follow Fashanu's path and make their sexual orientation public.

“For the last 25 years I have been afraid to show who I really was, afraid that rejection would stop me on the path to my dreams and aspirations,” revealed in February 2013 the United States winger Robbie Rogers, 25,



represented 18 times for his country's national team, he had played for Columbus Crew and until a few months before he had played for English Leeds United.

Rogers then decided to leave high-performance soccer

, but just three months later he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy, with whom he played another four and a half years.

Rogers was followed by other lesser-known footballers such as his compatriots

David Testo

(2019) and

Collin Martin

(2018), and Australians

Andy Bremman

(2019) and Josh



In May of last year, so did the English

Jake Daniels

, just 17 years old, who three months earlier had signed his first contract with Blackpool in the second division of his country.

“For a long time I thought that I would have to hide the truth because I wanted to be a professional footballer.

I was wondering if I shouldn't wait until I retire to come out of the closet.

However, that meant lying for a long time and not being able to be myself and live the life I want

," he justified.

Jake Daniels has been a professional player for English Blackpool since February 2022. Photo: Twitter (@Jake_Daniels11)

Unlike Daniels,

several players preferred to wait until retirement to take the plunge


Among them, the midfielder

Thomas Hitzlsperger

, who with the German national team played 52 games and participated in the

2006 World Cup


Euro 2008


"I talk about my homosexuality because I want to promote the discussion on the subject in professional sports

," explained in January 2014 (four months after he said goodbye to football) the player who wore the shirts of





Aston Villa


West Ham United






Nor have there been many cases in other sports in which homophobia is the rule


In June 2021,

Carl Nassib

revealed that he was gay and thus

became the first active player in the National Football League

(the main American football league on the planet) to do so.

Michael Sam

could have preceded him, but although he was selected in the 2014 Draft by the Saint Louis Rams, he did not even play an official game with that team.

Other men came out as gay once they left the NFL such as

Dave Kopay


Roy Simmons


Esera Tuaolo


Kwame Harris


Ryan O'Callaghan

(2017) and

Jeff Rohrer



British rugby legend

, Welshman

Gareth Thomas

, came out in December 2009, while still a professional player (playing for

Cardiff Blues

) and arguing for a divorce from Jemma, his wife.

The former captain of his country's national team admitted that

the pressure to hide his sexuality had even led him to develop suicidal tendencies


I thought I could suppress it, keep it locked up in some dark corner of me, but I couldn't.

It was like a time bomb

," he recounted in an interview with the

Daily Mail


Gareth Thomas played 100 test matches with the Welsh rugby team.

Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters.

“It was very hard to hide who I really am and I don't want the same thing to happen to the next young man who wants to play rugby.

I don't know if my life will be easier, but if this helps someone else, then it will have been worth it.

I'm not going on a crusade, but I'm proud of who I am.

I think I got everything I could hope for from rugby and I did it by being gay.

I want to send a positive message to other gay people that they can do it too

,” added Thomas.

In September 2019, the former fullback revealed that he was HIV positive.

As he explained in a video posted on his Twitter account, he did it because he had been blackmailed.

"It's my business to tell it, not the evil ones who made my life hell, threatening to tell me before I did

," he said.

In August of last year, Thomas was denounced by his ex-partner,

Ian Baum

, who accused him of transmitting HIV to him by hiding his HIV-positive status.

Another discipline in which homophobia has permeated strongly, such as boxing, has also seen one of its own come out of the closet: Orlando Cruz


“I want to be the best possible role model for kids who consider boxing as a sport and a professional career.

I have always been and will be a proud Puerto Rican, I have always been and will be a proud gay”

, said the Puerto Rican, who had been an Olympic representative in Sydney 2000 in October 2012. As a professional, he came to fight for the lightweight title of the

World Boxing Organization

, but was defeated by Englishman

Terry Flanagan

in November 2016 in Cardiff.

Greg Louganis was a two-time Olympic platform and springboard champion in Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988. Photo: Reuters.

In the world of water sports, several outstanding athletes have come out as gay.

The first was the American

Greg Louganis

, four-time Olympic champion in Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988, five-time world champion and

almost unanimously considered

the best jumper of all time


He did so in June 1994, six years after his retirement, on the eve of his participation in the fourth edition of the Gay Games that took place in New York.


Ian Thorpe

also made his choice public in July 2014.

“I feel comfortable saying that I am a gay man.

And I don't want people to feel the way I felt.

I had the feeling that the lie had become very big and I didn't want people to jeopardize my integrity

," said the

winner of five gold, three silver and one bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Athens 2004


The same was done by his compatriot Matthew Mitcham, champion in Beijing 2008, and the British Tom Daley, gold in Tokyo 2020 (both in platform tests).

Other Olympic champions who made their homosexuality public were the American athlete

Kerron Clement

, winner of the 400-meter hurdles in Rio de Janeiro 2016 and the 4x400-meter relay in Beijing 2008, and the Brazilian volleyball player

Douglas Souza

, who climbed to the highest step from the podium in Rio.

In Argentina, one of the few elite athletes who took the step was basketball player

Sebastián Vega


The man from Entre Ríos did so on March 10, 2020 through an extensive letter entitled

“the truth sets us free”

and published on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, and also on those of Gimnasia de Comodoro Rivadavia, the club where he I played then.

“What is the point of all this?

What do I want to achieve?

The most important thing is to be able to close a stage and feel free for once.

Free of guilt, of feeling lacking.

Show everyone and myself that I can be gay and continue playing basketball with the commitment I've had since I debuted in the League.

I know that it will mark my future, but it will also allow me to reconcile with the past”

, explained the forward who currently plays for Unifacisa in Brazil.

Vega's letter had a very positive reception in the basketball world, a sport that registered only a couple of cases of players who had come out of the closet.

In April 2013, American center

Jason Collins

had done it , who became the first openly gay man to play a game in the


(with the Brooklyn Nets).

Another center,

John Amaechi

, had done it in 2007, four years after his retirement.

In April 2019, almost a year before the publication of Sebastián Vega's letter, volleyball player

Facundo Imhoff

, then

a Boca player and member of the Argentine national team

(months later he would be champion at the Pan American Games in Lima), said that he was gay and stated that making this situation public had a very positive impact on his sports performance.

Facundo Imhoff plays for Lindaren Volley Amriswil in the Swiss volleyball first division.

Photo: Instagram @facuimhoff.

“It is a lie that you can separate your personal life from your professional life.

It helped me a lot to talk to my teammates about what was happening to me.

I couldn't keep pretending I liked a girl when I really didn't.

Not telling what was happening to me was a very big waste of energy.

He led a double life.

Without a doubt, that affected my performance”

, explained the central defender from Santa Fe.

Although in women's sports the choice of a sexual orientation is not yet handled with the naturalness that it would require in these times, it is much more frequent that elite athletes from different disciplines do not hide their homosexuality.

Among them are the soccer player

Megan Rapinoe

, winner of the Ballon d'Or and The Best award in 2019;

basketball player

Sue Bird

, four-time world champion and five-time Olympic champion;

tennis players

Martina Navratilova


Amelie Mauresmo

(both were number one in the WTA ranking);

and the athlete

Caster Semenya

, two-time Olympic champion of the 800 meters in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.

look too

Jakub Jankto announces on his social media that he is gay and breaks one of football's great taboos: "I don't want to hide any longer"

The former partner of the Getafe footballer who declared himself homosexual spoke: "He gave me a lot of freedom"

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-03-04

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