Homosexual male players in football history
Homosexuality in football is sometimes said to be a taboo subject. It has been claimed that clubs prevent players from "coming out" as footballers have an increasing commercial market value which may be damaged.
According to research results, fans would like to see homophobia taken out of football, that the FA were not doing enough to tackle the issue and that they would be comfortable to see a player on their team come out of the closet.
Here is a list of professional male footballers who came out public and announced their homosexuality:
It is worth mentioning that several high-profile female footballers have recently come out as lesbian with attitudes around the women's game being more tolerant than the men's.
Collin Martin, born on November 9, 1994, is an American professional soccer player who plays as a midfielder for San Diego Loyal in the USL Championship. He has played for D.C. United and Minnesota United FC in Major League Soccer, and for Richmond Kickers and Hartford Athletic in the United Football League.
He came out as gay in June 2018, making him the only out man in any of the big five American sports leagues or any top-division professional men's national soccer league.
Martin, 26, shared the news on Twitter, noting he had been openly gay to his friends and family for years, but never on such a large platform.
'Tonight my team, Minnesota United, is having their Pride night. It's an important night for me — I'll be announcing that I am an openly gay player in Major League Soccer,' he wrote on Twitter.
'I have been out as a gay man for many years to my family and friends, and this includes my teammates.'
Martin's announcement made him one of only two openly gay players in Major League Soccer - the other being Robbie Rogers, who retired shortly after his announcement but came back to play again.
David Testo was the first player to come out as a gay man, making the announcement shortly after his retirement in 2011.
Martin said his decision to come out on an international stage was made 'much easier' by the 'kindness and acceptance' from his fellow players.
'As we celebrate Pride night, I want to thank my teammates for their unconditional support for who I am,' he wrote in a statement.
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Robert Hampton Rogers, born May 12, 1987, is a former American professional soccer player. He played as a winger and as a left back. Rogers has also represented the United States men's national soccer team.
Robbie has been on the pitch since he was only 5 years old. Then, he used to be the striker-turned-winger for the American Youth Soccer Association and also played at Coast Soccer Junior League. As he grew older, he joined Mater Dei High School in Santa-Ana, California and made it to school's soccer team where he went ahead to win the coveted High School All-American title, not just once but twice.
Robbie was signed by Orange County Blue Star when he was only 16 and he made three appearances for them in the USL Premier Development League between 2004 and 2005 when he left for college.
In college (University of Maryland) Robbie's star kept shining in UMD's soccer pitch and he scored seven times and assisted other five goals during his short-lived season as a freshman.
Robbie's young talent and outstanding prowess attracted the Dutch Eredivisie giants Heerenveen, and he later joined them in the summer of '06 on his first professional contract when he was only 19.
Despite his successful contract, Rodgers never made it to Heerenveen's starting eleven squad. In his memoirs, "Coming Out To Play," Robbie recounts feeling left out and alienated when he was in Netherlands, even though he hadn't yet made his sexuality public.
This later contributed to him leaving the club in 2007 by mutual consent and before returning to the States.
Rogers returned to the USA and was later signed by the MLS side Columbus crew before the 2007 MLS season. He scored his first goal on June 17, 2007, scoring an opening goal in the 3-3 draw again the team New England Revolution. Rogers scored 3 times in his ten appearances for the club in his first season and also helped his team with one assist.
The 2008 season was the breakthrough season for Rogers as a professional. He started the campaign regularly for Crew, scoring his first goal in 4-3 home win over CD Chivas USA on 13 April 2008. He was awarded by the MLS Player of the week for game week seven.
He came out in February 2013 to be the second British footballer after Justin Fashano in 1990. He released a book named “Coming Out to Play”.
Rogers announced his retirement and sexuality with a 408-word post on his personal blog, in which Rogers wrote, "I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay. Those are things that people might say wouldn't go well together. But my family raised me to be an individual and to stand up for what I believe in."
In a March 2013 interview with The Guardian, Rogers said he retired to avoid the pressure and scrutiny from the press and fans, which he called "the circus".
Rogers said, "Are people coming to see you because you're gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: 'So you're taking showers with guys—how's that?'"
Robbie Rogers is married to his gay partner Greg Berlanti who is a producer. The couple tied the knot in December 2016.
Rogers net worth has been estimated to be $1 Million - $5 Million approximately.
Glen Anton Hysen
Glenn Anton Hysén, born December 13, 1990, is a Swedish footballer who plays in the Swedish Football Division 2 for Torslanda IK, as a defender.
Anton is the son of Glenn Ingvar Hysén, a football manager and former player who played for leading Dutch, Italian and English clubs and earned 68 caps for Sweden.
Anton Hysén is a former member of the Swedish under-17 team and was given a trainee contract with BK Häcken from 2007 to 2009, but was hindered by injuries and instead joined Utsiktens BK in 2010.
In 2014, he played with the American fourth division team Myrtle Beach FC. In 2015, he signed with Torslanda IK.
Anton is the son of former Swedish international Glenn Hysén, and was born in Liverpool, when his father was playing for Liverpool F.C..
Anton Hysén came out as gay to the Swedish football magazine Offside in March 2011. Daily Mail has described Anton as the "first high-profile Swedish footballer to announce that he is gay" and as the second active professional football player to come out, after English footballer Justin Fashanu in 1990. The BBC called him "a global one-off".
His older brothers are football players Tobias Hysén (half-brother) and Alexander Hysén. He won the seventh season of Let's Dance, being the first openly gay person to win this competition.
Anton Hysén said: '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.'
As yet, no top footballer in this country has come out, despite major stars in other sports doing so.
Hysen admitted that his announcement could affect his career, but added: 'People may call me anything they want, it will just make me even more psyched.'
At Frankfurt Airport in 2001, Anton’s father attacked a man who had groped him while in the public restroom.
In 2007, Hysén spoke at Stockholm Pride, the largest gay pride festival in the Nordic region. Many people from the gay community were surprised due to the earlier incident. At the Stockholm Pride, he delivered a speech denouncing sports homophobia and laid to rest his 2001 airport incident.
He stated that, "I know that many LGBT people have been the victims of assaults and hate crimes. I can therefore understand if some people have been upset by the airport incident, so I want to be clear: I think that it is completely unacceptable that anybody should be subjected to assaults, insults or hate crimes due to their sexual orientation or gender identity,...The incident had been blown out of proportion in the media...In order to finally flush the Frankfurt Airport punch down the toilet: it is not the case that I beat up a gay person. I categorically deny that,...I'm not proud that I took a swing at him, but I am proud that I have integrity and that I reacted."
In the same speech he asked "How easy would it be for a sixteen-year-old boy who plays football to come out as gay to his team mates?" In March 2011 his youngest son, Anton, came out of the closet to the media.
Anton said, “That was the funniest thing when my dad made that speech. When he was talking about 'a 16-year-old who didn't want to come out because he feared what his teammates would think', that was me.”
Thomas Hitzlsperger, born 5 April 1982, is a German director of football and former footballer who played as a midfielder. Since February 2019, he has been the head of VfB Stuttgart sport.
Hitzlsperger began to play football at Forstinning, and later he joined the youth system of Bayern Munich and in 2000 he moved to Aston Villa.
Hitzlsperger made his first team debut on 13 January 2001 in the match against Liverpool, ended in a 0-3 loss, though throughout his first season there he was used only once and had a short loan period at Chesterfield. He played for Aston Villa until 2005 and in summer he moved to VfB Stuttgart.
He made 30 league appearances and scored seven goals, helping his side to win the Bundesliga in 2006/07. In August 2007, Hitzlsperger signed a new contract with Stuttgart which bound him for three more years.
In the winter transfer window in 2010, he switched to Lazio for six months and then, in June 2010, he moved to West Ham United. His debut there was in February 2011 in the FA Cup game against Burnley.
In August 2011, Hitzlsperger joined Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg and played for them until his move to the Premier League team Everton on 19 October 2012.
He was called to play for the Germany U19 and U21 teams and earned his first cap for the senior team on 9 October 2004 when he substituted Bernd Schneider in a 2-0 victory over Iran.
Hitzlsperger, who was engaged to his childhood sweetheart, broke up with her shortly before the scheduled wedding six years ago. He was not certain of his sexual orientation until his career was almost over. "I finally figured out that I preferred living with a man," he said in an interview.
Hitzlsperger had thought about coming out while still playing for Wolfsburg in 2011-12 but then listened to people who warned him of the negative consequences. "They all said 'don't do it, a big wave will crash on you'," he says. "But in the end, I realized that nobody knows. There was no precedent, so everybody could only speculate on what would happen."
While Germany as a country has noticeably become more and more relaxed about homosexuality in recent years, he had also noted there was an unhelpful media obsession with finding the first gay footballer. All sorts of well-intended but ultimately unhelpful interventions from heterosexual players – who either opined that gay players would benefit from coming out or cautioned against it – did not exactly fill him with confidence that this was indeed the right step.
The former international, who played in the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 European Championship, maintains that he did not have to lie about his sexuality and that teammates eventually stopped asking about his lack of a girlfriend.
"But the important thing for me is to show that being a homosexual football player is something that is normal. The perceived contradiction between playing football, the man's game, and being homosexual is nonsense. I don't think anyone has ever come away from watching a game with me thinking there's something wrong or 'too soft' with my game," he added.
Known as "the Hammer" among supporters because of his fierce shot with his left foot, Hitzlsperger always enjoyed a robust challenge.
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Liam Davis, born 8 November 1990, is an English semi-professional footballer who last played for Cleethorpes Town.
Liam started his career in the Youth teams of home town club Grimsby Town, where he failed to break into the first team. After departing Grimsby Town, Liam went onto play for Selby Town, Brigg Town, Gainsborough Trinity, and most recently Cleethorpes Town, who he represented in the 2017 FA Vase Final at Wembley.
In January 2014 Davis become the UKs highest profile openly gay footballer.
In December 2017, Davis publicly criticized comments made by FA chairman Greg Clarke that "professional players who out themselves as homosexual would be taking a risk."
Davis urged other homosexual soccer players to come out publicly and not fear a backlash.
The 27-year-old has spoken out encouraging gay footballers not to worry about coming out, sharing his own experiences as part of Uefa’s Equal Game campaign, to foster greater inclusion and diversity in the sport.
The midfielder admitted receiving abuse from opponents, but insists football’s attitudes to homosexuality are increasingly progressive.
Marcus Urban, born 4 August 1971, is a former German football player. He played for the East German national youth football team and in the second division club Rot-Weiß Erfurt in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Several years later, he came out as a gay footballer. He has spoken publicly about the difficulties that gay footballers’ experience and he is now a spokesperson and campaigner on diversity issues in sport and the workplace.
Urban was sent to a sports boarding school at age 13 and played for the national youth teams in the 1990s before settling at second division club Rot-Weiss Erfurt.
“As I was incredibly aggressive, I played central midfield, was a play maker like Rafael van der Vaart at Hamburg,” he told reporters.
“When I left the place, I was again the shy grey mouse. I was full of complexes.”
Urban said he realized that life as an openly gay professional player would be impossible and gave up his career. He presently works with disabled artists.
Olivier Rouyer, born 1 December 1955 in Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, is a retired football striker from France. He earned seventeen international caps (two goals) for the French national team during the late 1970s and early 1980s. A player of AS Nancy, he was a member of the French team in the 1978 FIFA World Cup. He coached Nancy from 1991–1994.
Rouyer is gay, coming out after retiring as a player and coach. Rouyer came from a different generation of footballers.
The winger made 210 appearances for his local side, Nancy, from 1973 to 1981, scoring on 73 occasions. His goal-scoring prowess and his speed meant that he really deserved the French national team.
Rouyer represented his country 17 times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, scoring twice. After spells at Strasbourg, Lyon, and Neudorf, Rouyer hung up his boots. Only after he had returned to Nancy to manage his former club in the early 1990s did Rouyer come out as gay.
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David Testo, born August 7, 1981, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is an American retired soccer player who, after his playing career ended in 2011, became the first male American professional player of that sport to come out as gay.
Testo played professionally from 2003 to 2011, including two years in Major League Soccer with the Columbus Crew from 2004 to 2005.
Testo came out in 2011 during a radio interview broadcast in Canada. Having played professional football in the United States since 2003, the midfielder said that all of his clubs and teammates had been told about his sexuality although up to that point he had decided not to come out.
Testo is widely regarded as the first American professional soccer player to come out as gay. He is now on the board of You Can Play, an organization dedicated to the fight against homophobia in sport.
Pitter lives in Balham with his husband Alan and works as an assistant manager at Boots. He plays for and manages Stonewall F.C.'s second team.
Aslie Pitter M.B.E. is a British footballer who joined Stonewall F.C., Britain's first and most successful gay football club, in 1991. He was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire because of his work in combating homophobia.
Pitter realized at the age of 10 that he was gay, and dealt with homophobic abuse from his schoolmates. He has played football since his youth for a number of amateur clubs. He was chosen to play midfield for the Sutton United youth team and had a trial at Wimbledon.
While playing for his local club, Pitter suffered homophobia from other players and was dropped from the first team to the fourth team after one of his teammates found out that he was gay. Observing that they wanted him gone, Pitter quit. In 1991, after seeing a listing in Capital Gay and Time Out, he joined a group of LGBT soccer players in Regent's Park. This was Stonewall F.C., the first gay football club in Britain.
In November 2010, he was informed that he would be appointed an MBE for his work against homophobia in football. His father died shortly after, before the New Year Honors list was made public in December.
Pitter collected his MBE from Buckingham Palace on 8 February 2011 accompanied by his sister, his fiancé, and his future mother-in-law. He was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the University of East London in 2011.
Thomas Berling, born 21 January 1979, is a retired Norwegian football defender. His retirement from football sparked media attention.
Berling played for Nardo FK, and joined Lyn ahead of the 1999 season. He played four games in the second highest Norwegian league, and also played for the u-19 national team.
In 2000, he disappeared from professional football. It was later announced that he had come out as gay, and that he quit football as a result of what he described as widespread homophobia in the football community.
In 2001, he briefly came out of retirement, playing for lower league Drøbak/Frogn IF.
Berling's case was cited several times in the upcoming years, as the connection between homophobia and sport was discussed in the national media now and then.
Justinus Soni Fashanu (19 February 1961 – 2 May 1998) was an English footballer who played for various clubs between 1978 and 1997.
Fashanu was the first black footballer to command a £1million transfer fee, with his transfer from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest in 1981, but had little success as a player afterwards, although he continued to play at senior level until 1994.
Fashanu took the brave decision to inform his first clubs that he was gay. He came out to the press later in his career, becoming the first professional footballer to be openly gay.
The player, who gained several under-21 caps for England, chose to come out publicly in 1990 following an interview in the press. Fashanu revealed his encounters with celebrities, MPs and other football players.
In 1998, Fashanu was charged with a sexual assault in Maryland, USA. He fled back to the UK but later took his own life leaving a note which denied the charge against him.
He was questioned by police when a seventeen-year-old boy accused him of sexual assault. He was charged, and an arrest warrant for him was issued in Howard County, Maryland on 3 April 1998, but he had already left his flat.
According to his suicide note, fearing he would not get a fair trial because of his homosexuality, he fled to England where he killed himself in London in May 1998.
Fashanu was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into in Shoreditch, east London. His suicide note stated that the sex was consensual.