In a letter released in the media this Friday by the Justin Fashanu Foundation, A Premier League footballer who does not reveal his name said that he is gay and the sufferings he suffers from not being able to assume it publicly due to the hostility of his environment. The organization Fashanu fights against homophobia in soccer with the name of the first famous player who declared himself openly gay, and who committed suicide in 1998 at the age of 37.
The full text, first published by The Sun, is as follows:
“Since I was a boy I always wanted to be a footballer. I was not interested in doing well in school. Instead of doing homework, every free minute was spent with a ball. In the end, that paid off. Even today I have to pinch myself when I go out onto the playing field to play every week in front of tens of thousands of people.
However, there is something that separates me from the rest of the Premier League players. I’m gay. Even writing it in this letter is a big step for me. But only my family and a small group of friends know about my sexuality. I don’t feel ready to share it with my team or my coach. It’s something difficult. I spend a lot of my life with these people and when we go out on the court we are a team. Still, something inside of me makes it impossible for me to open up to them about how I feel. I hope that someday soon I can do it.
Since I was 19 years old, I know I’m gay. How does it feel to live like this? On a daily basis it can be an absolute nightmare and it is affecting my mental health more and more. I feel trapped and my fear is that revealing the truth about who I am will only make things worse. So even though my heart frequently tells me that I need to, my head always says the same thing: ‘Why risk everything?’
I am lucky to earn a good salary, I have a nice car, a wardrobe full of designer clothes and I can buy everything I want for my family and friends. But what I miss in the company. I am at an age where I would love to have a relationship, but because of the work I have, the confidence in having a long-term relationship must be extremely high. That is why, for the moment, I avoid relationships at all. I really wish to meet someone I can trust soon.
The truth is that I think football is not ready for a player to come out of the closet. Sport would have to make radical changes so that I can feel empowered to take that step. The Professional Footballers Association said it is ready to help those players who come out of the closet and have said they will offer counseling and support to those who need it. This is not the point: if I needed a counseling I would take a turn for one whenever I want. What those who run the sport have to do is educate the fans, the players, the coaches, the agents and the owners of the clubs, basically everyone involved in the game. If I decided to take that step I would like to know that I will count on support every step of the way. Today I do not feel that it will be like this.
I wish I didn’t have to live my life this way, but the reality is that there is still a lot of prejudice in soccer. On numerous occasions I have heard homophobic chants and comments from fans, which are not directed at anyone in particular. Strangely, this does not bother me during games because I am very focused on playing. Only when I get on the plane or when I talk to the coach that I realize.
If things stay like this, my plan is to continue playing while I feel it and to leave the closet when I retire. It was great to see Thomas Beattie raise his hand and admit to being gay last month, but the fact that he had to wait until he retired tells you all there is to know. Footballers are still very scared to take the step while playing.
The last year I have received support from the Justin Fashanu Foundation to be able to cope with the burden that this is generating on my mental health. It is difficult to put into words how much the Foundation has helped me. It has made me feel supported and understood, it also gave me the confidence to be more open and honest with myself. Without that support I don’t know where I would be now.
I know the point might come when it becomes impossible for me to continue living a lie. My plan is to retire and then come out of the closet. I may throw away a lucrative career for several years, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind. and I don’t want to live like this forever ”.