As much as one can say to differentiate between the life on the football pitch and off the football pitch, there are times when the two worlds collide. For example, we saw the Iranian football teams protesting against their government crackdown after the death of Mahsa Amini by refusing to sing the national anthem at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And just like that have also seen several footballers coming out openly as homosexual, a step seen as a sign of positivity against the discrimination faced by the community.
Earlier this season, we saw Birmingham City’s teenage footballers Jake Daniels coming out as homosexual. And now Czech footballer Jakub Jankto has also come out openly as homosexual. However, these two are not the only footballers to come out as gay. Several footballers have come out in the open, showing that, slowly but surely, the game of football is beginning to foster an environment where a person is not discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.
So, we look at some of the players who have come out in the open about their sexual orientation.
Czech footballer Jakub Jankto is the latest footballer to come out as homosexual. In a video released on Twitter, Jankto said, “I’m homosexual, and I no longer want to hide myself”. Jankto plays as a midfielder and has played for clubs such as Udinese, Sampdoria, and Getafe.
He was also in a relationship with Marketa Ottomanska, who is a model and also has a son with her. However, they separated in 2021. In the video, Jankto continued, “I have a job which I have been doing as best as I can, for years, with seriousness, professionalism and passion. Like everybody else, I also want to live my life in freedom. Without fears. Without prejudice. Without violence. But with love.”
El futbolista del Getafe Jakub Jankto reconoce que es homosexual y que no quiere esconderse más. 👏👏🏳️🌈
Es el primero de La Liga en hacerlo cuando es evidente que hay decenas de jugadores que lo son. Lo cual habla de mucha valentía por su parte y de mucha homofobia en el fútbol. pic.twitter.com/BAfvjbEieH
— Pablo Echenique (@PabloEchenique) February 13, 2023
On talent alone, there might not be a better homosexual player in the history of football than Justin Fashanu. The talented striker rose to fame in 1979-80, scoring the ‘Goal of the Season’ against Liverpool. The following season, he scored 19 goals before becoming the first black player to be brought in for £1 million.
However, allegations started to emerge that he was homosexual, which affected his football career as managers hesitated to give minutes on the pitch. Things got much worse after his interview with The Sun, where he openly admitted that he was gay.
After this, he never got a full-time contract with any club. His story had a tragic end after he died by suicide after being accused of sexual harassment, which he denied in his suicide note. In 2020, Justin Fashanu was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.2019.
Before Jankto, Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels also came out as homosexual in May 2022. The footballer was only 17 years old when he came out in the open about his sexual orientation. By doing this, he only became the second British footballer since Justin Fashanu to come out as gay.
Daniels is a talented forward who first came to notice in 2021 when he played for the under-18s and scored 30 goals. And he signed his first professional contract as soon as he turned 17. He was also handed his debut for the senior team on May 7, 2022, in the EFL Championship against Peterborough United.
Thomas Hitzlsperger is one of the most successful homosexual players in the history of the game. Capped 52 times by Germany, Hitzlsperger was in the national squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and 2008 Euros. In addition, he played for Aston Villa, VfB Stuttgart, Lazio, VfL Wolfsburg and Everton at the club level.
He won the Bundesliga with Stuttgart in 2007 and was also selected for the Team of the Season. However, multiple injuries forced him to retire. In 2007, he also broke up with his long-time girlfriend a month before their marriage.
And in 2014, he finally came out as gay making him the most high-profile player to do so.
MLS player Collin Martin is also among the few players who have come out as gay while playing football. Martin, who plays for San Diego Loyal in the United States, came out as homosexual in 2018 while he was playing for Minnesota United.
At that time, he was the only active player to be homosexual. Martin first came into the spotlight when Phoenix Rising’s Junior Flemmings used a homophobic slur on him. As a result, his team abandoned the match, and the entire incident became national news in the United States.
Flemmings was later suspended for six matches, apologised for his actions, and sorted out the issue with Martin.