Eric Najib, the founder and chair of Rainbow Devils, shares his story in a new Manchester United FC documentary. | ‘One Love: Rainbow Devils’ (MUTV)

When Eric Najib came out as gay to his fellow Manchester United fans on a coach trip in May 1999, he could never have imagined what his life would be like 25 years later.

Not only is he the founder and chair of Rainbow Devils — the Premier League giants’ official LGBTQ supporters group — but he is also the manager of the world’s most successful LGBTQ football club, Stonewall FC.

Najib decided to tell his friends about his sexuality to distract them, as emotions ran high after a 2-2 draw away to rivals Liverpool. That result potentially derailed their Treble ambitions in the 1998/9 season.

However, by the end of that month, United had lifted all three major trophies — and Najib’s personal news had been positively received.

He tells the story in “One Love: Rainbow Devils”, a new 20-minute documentary that is part of the MUTV Originals series. The film features other members of the fan group too, and it’s available to watch for free if you register with the Man Utd website.

Viewers also see Eric training at Stonewall FC. He joined the London-based club as a player in 2001 before becoming first-team manager five years later, and he recently guided them to a fifth Gay Games gold medal, in Guadalajara.

His many achievements saw him shortlisted in the “FvH Hero” category at the Football v Homophobia Awards, held at England’s National Football Museum in Manchester last Friday.

Meanwhile, United came away with a first-place trophy in their hometown, in the Professional Club category, in recognition of their community-building work, a major ‘One Love Live’ event held at Old Trafford, and impactful efforts made to tackle homophobic chanting.

Eric Najib with last year’s FvH Hero Award winner Charlotte Galloway, at the 2024 gala evening in Manchester.

“Being nominated for the FvH Hero Award was a tremendous honor for me personally and fantastic recognition, not just for myself but for the great work that everyone at Stonewall FC and Rainbow Devils does,” Najib told Outsports.

“I’m immensely proud to be associated with both. I’m also delighted to see Manchester United win the Pro Club Award and it vindicates the fantastic relationship Rainbow Devils has with MUFC, with regard to driving inclusivity in football.

“The awards gala night was a fantastic evening, and huge thanks to everyone at FvH for making it happen.”

The close partnership between United and Rainbow Devils could be seen by director of fan engagement Rick McGagh writing on LinkedIn that he was dedicating the club’s award win to Rainbow Devils.

Manchester United’s director of fan engagement Rick McGagh (right) celebrates with club colleagues at the FvH Awards. | Gordon Marino

The documentary is particularly effective in conveying how the group helps new members who have previously been less confident about their orientation or gender identity.

Ben Faulkner is shown attending his first meet-up. He once had dreams of making it as a pro footballer and went to the U.S. on a soccer scholarship. After that, found himself drifting away from the game when he realized that he is gay.

“I was adamant that I would never come out,” he explains in the piece. “I would live a lie for the rest of my life. I was hiding this thing from myself and everybody else which was obviously very difficult and it started to affect my football.”

However, he never wanted to give up on the game.

“Growing up, I’ve always wanted to equate the fact that I’m a gay man and I absolutely love Manchester United, and try and combine those facets together.”

He’s now a Rainbow Devils committee member, and he credits the fan group for helping to reawaken his passion for football. Recently he has been based at FC Malaga City Academy in Spain as a recruitment scout.

Attending his first social event back in Manchester, he meets other members of the fan group — of different ages and backgrounds, and from all parts of the LGBTQ community.

Sitting in the stands at Old Trafford, Najib contemplates his personal journey at the end of the documentary. He reflects on a quarter century of being a United fan who is out and proud.

“Without my experience of Manchester United, and the people I’ve met here, I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to set up the group or be as confident in myself, as a person,” he says.

“I have so much to be thankful for. Long may that continue.”

You can read a full recap of the Football v Homophobia Awards, which also included a major honor for Scottish striker Zander Murray, on the FvH website.