Gay footballer Thomas Beattie says queer athletes staying closeted could rob us of ‘the next Cristiano Ronaldo’
Gay former footballer Thomas Beattie has urged young queer athletes who feel alone to open up to at least one other person about their feelings.
Beattie came out as gay last month, making him the first English professional footballer to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
The 33-year-old former Hull City AFC attacking midfielder told The Advocate that he hopes young queer athletes will find a way to open up about their feelings.
“To be in silence and alone is a difficult path,” he said.
“Having the ability to speak to one person is going to be a huge benefit.”
Gay footballer Thomas Beattie said it would be ‘a shame’ if LGBT+ youth moved away from sport because of homophobia.
“It’s a shame if you never fulfilled a potential of a dream. You never know what you might be missing out on if you decide to go the opposite way and decide not to pursue sport as a career [because you’re queer].
“That’d be a real shame to look back and say ‘What if?’ You never now. We could be missing out on the next Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Beattie spoke of his concern that young LGBT+ athletes may be afraid to enter professional sport because of homophobic attitudes.
Having the ability to speak to one person is going to be a huge benefit.
“I would definitely persuade anyone in that position to continue playing and learn about themselves through sport,” he said.
“Learn about their character: their morals, their values, their beliefs.”
He said most people in sport are “quite accepting” and being “different” is normal.
“Be passionate about whatever it is that sets your soul on fire. If that’s sport, then go for it.”
The former footballer realised he was gay when he was 22-years-old.
Elsewhere in the interview, Beattie – who now lives in Singapore – said he realised he was “different” when he was 17 years old.
“I felt different from a lot of my friends, but being gay was the last thing I thought I was,” he said.
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“I couldn’t really comprehend it, especially having not been exposed to people from the LGBT+ community at that point in time.
“For me, it was more around 22 years old that I started to understand, ‘Maybe I’m gay.'”
He said there are things that must be changed at a systemic level in sport in order for LGBT+ athletes to thrive.
Beattie urged families and teachers to start having conversations with young people so they can “grow up in an environment where we’re moving towards that”.
When Beattie came out publicly last month in an interview with The Advocate, he said he never considered going public with his sexuality while playing at a professional level.
“I literally felt like I had to sacrifice one of the two: who I am, or the sport I loved before I could remember.”