PFA Women’s Player of the Year Vivianne Miedema said in an interview with PA Media that a top men’s player coming out would do a lot to tackle homophobia in the sport.
“If someone was to come out and that player is fully respected, from there on it would be easy for a lot of other boys to come out as well. I think you should do what you want and let people do whatever they feel good with,” she said.
Miedema is in a relationship with her Arsenal teammate Lisa Evans, and while there are several current top female players who are openly gay, including FIFA Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe, there has still yet to be a high-profile equivalent among professional men’s footballers. Although former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger publicly came out following his retirement, no active player in the Premier League has ever done so.
Miedema’s vocal support adds to a number of recent efforts to tackle the culture of homophobic abuse in football stadiums and within fan culture online, including Fare’s #FootballPeople action weeks, the UK awareness campaign Rainbow Laces, and a 10-point action plan implemented by the FA. Following the recent death of Kobe Bryant, a number of top Brazilian players have also adopted the #24 jersey in an attempt to destigmatize the number in the men’s game, which is associated with a homophobic slur in Brazil.
Football culture, especially in Europe, also has a problem with racist abuse in addition to homophobia, and Miedema followed up her comments with a nod to that as well.
“Why does it change the player if he is gay or not? Why does it change the player if he or she is from Holland, from Africa, from Australia? We are all the same so why can’t we just accept how we are and who we are and go from there. Just enjoy football and enjoy life, that is how easy it is for me anyway.”