Former Premier League player Carl Hoefkens has opened up about playing with gay teammates several times over the course of his professional career both in the Premier League and professionally in Belgium.

“I find it strange that homosexuality is still a taboo in football,” Hoefkens told de zondag. “I played with three gays, including one really big name. They did not hide it in the locker room. One even came to practice with his boyfriend. But they asked to keep it quiet from the outside world. Do not ask me why.”

Hoefkens has been out of soccer for a couple years, meaning that this acceptance of gay athletes he saw from his teammates came in 2015 or earlier.

The fact that these athletes were out to their teammates speaks volumes about where we are — and have been for a long time — in true acceptance of gay athletes. The other players on the team and the coaching staff knew these athletes were gay and apparently didn’t let that disrupt the team or become an issue.

Hoefkens is obviously right to not share the names of these gay athletes, as their public coming out is up to them and them alone.

Yet I’m glad Hoefkens brought this up when asked about appearing in a gay men’s magazine several years ago. The more non-LGBT athletes talk about their experiences with teams accepting gay athletes, the more the narrative of “sports as homophobic” changes to the reality of acceptance we see today.

The fact that Hoefkens played for many years, and had hundreds and hundreds of teammates in that time, also means it shouldn’t spark a “guessing game” about who the teammates were. If he had identified a year or a club they were on, we might have an issue. What he said is no problem and is, in fact, great to see.

While many people still cling to the idea that English soccer is somehow still a bastion of homophobia where gay athletes will be rejected by teams and teammates, Hoefkens’ comments shine light on the truth.

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