Arsene Wenger, the manager of Arsenal in the English Premier League, wishes it were possible for gay soccer players to come out openly, but says the scrutiny may make that impossible.
"It would be good if four, five, six people come out and after that nobody speaks about it anymore because they just think it is people who live their life like they want to live it," Wenger said in a wide-ranging interview on homophobia in soccer with the Arsenal magazine.
Wenger was asked whether the intense media attention an openly gay player would get in the EPL would deter such a player from ever coming forward.
"Because of that media interest, maybe no one will come out. You have to consider now that, in a society where you have gay marriage, why should people not come out? For me, it is not a problem because what is important is how a player behaves, how much he loves football and how much he respects his partners. That's what the game is about."
The manager makes clear that he wishes every player -- regardless of sexual orientation -- could just be himself, but recognizes that forces in the sport still make that tough. Former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger came out this year, after he retired. "Hitzlsperger should not have had to wait until the end," Wenger said, "But overall he should not have to come out at all because it should just be considered like anything else."
"Not coming out" is a nice sentiment if being gay was universally accepted. While straight players never have to come out as heterosexual -- it's just assumed -- any gay player who wants to do so openly will still draw a ton of attention.
Wenger has a lot of interesting things to say on the subject, so read the entire Q&A. The World Cup starts in two weeks and there is no one from any of the 32 teams who is openly gay.