Last week an unidentified professional soccer player told Fluter magazine that he feared the public and media reaction to coming out of the closet. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, celebrating the league's new "Go your own way" campaign, answered a question about that player's fear last week:
You need not fear. I am of the opinion that everyone who has the strength and courage [to come out] should know that we live in a state where he essentially does not have to be fearful. That is my political statement.
Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness shared similar feelings:
"Sooner or later some players are bound to out themselves," Hoeness said, "I cannot imagine that a gay player would have any problems with our fans. FC Bayern is ready. Society as a whole is further along on this issue than the media suggests."
As we've said on Outsports many times, European soccer is one of the most homophobic corners of the professional sports world. It makes the NFL look like a pride parade. And while corners of Germany, like Berlin, are often gay-friendly, as ESPN's Susie Schaaf notes:
While Uli says the right things, Neo-Nazi banners still fly in some German stadiums. Racist remarks are still levelled at non-Germans. Even the anonymous player understands the stadium atmosphere saying: "I once heard that the cerebellum rules in heated moods, and tolerance is not built there. But I have to accept this because the stadium and the fans are the essential engine that drives me every day as well." To make an indirect analogy: Look at the crap that was levelled by Bayern supporters at Manuel Neuer just for switching clubs. Imagine if he switched teams?
I have no doubt that the overall experience of a professional German soccer player would be positive. But while I see no reason for an NFL player to stay closeted, I do understand a little better the fears of that German soccer player. If you think Yankees fans are crazy...they've got nothing on the European soccer fans.
Still, they're doing something about it. With the Bundesliga's launch of their new campaign -- "Go your own way" -- the league is putting forward a welcoming notion that everyone can be themselves in the league.
Photo: Valeria Witters/Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE