Editor’s Note: Quotes from Fernandez are translated into English from Spanish through Google translator.
A gay soccer player in Argentina came out last June, and it didn’t make big headlines.
That may seem like a dopey start to an article about Nicolas Fernandez, but in a time when some people claim “all the media attention” paid mandatorily to every gay athlete who comes out is a reason they stay in the closet, it’s an important observation.
Fernandez, who plays soccer in Santa Rosa, about 400 miles west of Buenos Aires, shared a post about being gay on Facebook last June, coincidentally on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It’s only now, with an interview published in Tiempo, that his coming out is getting some attention.
He also told his team — General Belgrano — that he’s gay, and everything went great.
“I told them that I had been with a boy for three years, and that if anyone had a problem, he should tell me,” Fernandez told Tiempo. “It was simple, and the boys accepted me without any problem. I felt relieved.”
In the interview, Fernandez talked candidly about the power of jokes and language on the pitch. He said he doesn’t let it bother him, and that even his teammates tease him — all in good fun. Though he did share the story of one fan who harassed him during a game. The reaction from Fernandez and his family and fans was so strong that the police had to guard the fan for his own safety.
“The police had to intervene so he could leave,” Fernandez said. “I always felt support.”
It’s difficult to give Americans a comparable understanding of where exactly Fernandez is on the soccer totem pole, as the system of soccer in Argentina is vastly different from the United States. The closest thing to the comparable sports level is probably something like NCAA Division II or III, but of course Fernandez’s team isn’t associated with a university.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Argentina since 2010. Other LGBTQ rights in the country, almost across the board, are well ahead of the pace of most of the rest of the world.
It’s great to see Fernandez blazing a trail in a sport with a long history of homophobic behavior, particularly by fans. Here’s hoping we hear more from him in the future.
Be sure to check out his full interview with Tiempo here.