Two stars of the German football league have given in-depth interviews to a magazine about life as a gay man in the top flight of soccer – on condition that their identities were kept secret.
RUND magazine spent two years gaining the trust of the players and researching homophobia in the beautiful game.
Just like the UK, there are no out gay professional footballers in the German leagues.
One of the players who spoke to the magazine is married, the other has a female friend who is aware of his orientation and accompanies him to social events.
The married player told RUND that he has been in a sexual relationship with a childhood friend.
Both said that coming out would be professional suicide.
RUND also exposed the actions of agents and clubs, who react to rumours that a player is gay by creating a false media image, using glamour models and paparazzi.
“Constructing a fake identity and an elaborate web of lies takes a heavy toll on the players and doesn’t make it easier for them to focus on their game,” commented Rainer Schafer, chief editor at RUND.
The magazine praises the UK for its anti-homophobia campaigns, and claims the German football authorities could learn from our example.
“It would be a big help if heterosexual players would stand up and say ‘I have a gay colleague on the team and he plays great soccer, that’s it’,” Tatjana Eggeling, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Göttingen, told Deutche Welle.
“As things stand now, I wouldn’t advise a single German soccer player to come out because it would be just too much of a risk for him, both for his career and personal life,” she said.
The UK has laws against homophobic chanting, but the German Football Association (DFB) does not think there is a need for more regulation, with one of their spokesmen telling the RUND magazine there is no need for rules specifically to combat homophobic abuse.
Schäfer is confident howeever that the success of the British FA’s campaign will make its way to Germany.
“Remember that’s exactly what happened with racism. The DFB eventually gave in to the campaigns and imposed harsh penalties for racist behaviour. The same could happen with homophobia, hopefully.”