They met cute. Six months ago, Beth Fisher and Anita Asante were introduced at the kind of LGBTQ sports-themed event that would be impossible to hold these days amid the coronavirus pandemic. Now Fisher, a UK hockey player turned reporter, and Asante, a 2012 Olympian and defender for Chelsea, are together in lockdown at Fisher’s home in Wales’ capital city, Cardiff.

Together, they gave their first-ever interview as a couple to Jon Holmes of Sky Sports, for Lesbian Visibility Week.

“I’m quite a private person,” says Asante. “It’s partly my personality, and partly because I haven’t had that kind of media and exposure.

“Being gay or lesbian in women’s football was taboo for such a long time. There was a period between two generations where this negative bubble sat, and players were distancing themselves from the ‘label’ and the stereotypes. It was not seen as beneficial to the growth of the game and there were people in positions of power saying, ‘don’t brandish your sexuality’, or things like that.

“It influenced our generation, making players feel they couldn’t be fully open with the audience. Now we are starting to see the shift again into this modern period where there’s more freedom to express yourself. Megan Rapinoe, Ashlyn Harris and other US players have been at the forefront of that and have shown that who they are as people and their relationships can be a positive way to interact with the sport.”

Fisher and Asante posted a photo of themselves on Instagram to show support for the #BinTransphobia campaign.

Fisher, 37, told Sky Sports she always emphasizes the beauty of being different.

“Growing up, even into your early 20s, you worry so much about what other people think of you. When I was able to push that all away, it was such a release. The older you get, you know who the most important people are in your life and that’s all that matters.

“For LGBT people and anyone in a minority really, it’s about accepting yourself and being proud of who you are. My mum would say ‘don’t be afraid to be different, be afraid to be the same’ – and it’s true. When I go into schools and talk to kids, about social media and all these things, I can see they’re so desperate to be liked and to be the same. We have to let them know that being different will take them so much further in life.”

Asante, who turns 35 next week, added that sport was the space in which she felt most comfortable to be herself. “It was difficult,” she explains. “For some now, it’s still a lonely path. One of the challenges that comes with growing visibility is that each person is very dependent on the systems that immediately surround them. If you feel that support isn’t fully there for you, it’s very hard to navigate.”

Read Jon Holmes’ exclusive report in Sky Sports by clicking here. Connect with Beth Fisher on Instagram here and Anita Asante here.