Nico is the pseudonym of a gay soccer player in Germany's Under 19 Bundesliga, who plans on moving up in the ranks. He is also wrestling with whether to come out publicly and told Deutsche Welle about an incident with his team two years ago that has given him pause:
By chance the team I was in found out that I was gay. After a training session I walked into the shower and I realised all of my teammates weren't naked,but were wearing underpants. Of course I was totally shocked, and first I didn't know why. Then I slowly realized: It's because of me. In that moment I thought my career was over. I didn't want to go to training anymore. But after a week I went back to training. By the end of the season though, I was out of contention because I'd been playing badly. Nevertheless, I thought I'd played a good season. That showed me that being gay just isn't accepted in football. And that won't change in the near future.
Nico says he hears gay slurs constantly and that homophobia in the stands has gotten worse since former German player Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay earlier this year. A movie being shot in Germany about homophobia in soccer is based in part on his experiences, which had the interviewer wondering why he is sticking it out in the sport.
When you play well in a game and the crowd starts cheering your name, there's no better feeling. It wasn't worth throwing that and ten years of training away just because I like men and not women.
He wants to play as an openly gay man but has yet to decide when to go public. In the meantime, he challenges the soccer powers to combat homophobia, especially at the youth level. Nico's story is a reminder that as we celebrate athletes coming out, the majority are still closeted and wrestling with this issue on a daily basis.