ZURICH: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has expressed his support for Robbie Rogers, the player who declared that he was gay – and then retired from the sport at just 25.
Blatter quoted the world federation’s Code of Ethics statement insisting on “zero tolerance of discrimination and harassment.” He added: “Brave men like you will make it so that one day there is no need for an announcement.”
Rogers, 25, who was released by Leeds in January after a loan spell at Stevenage, is only the third footballer to publicly declare his homosexuality.
He said: “I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football.”
The California-born player, who won 18 caps for his country, made the announcement in a message posted on his personal website on Friday: “For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show who I really was because of fear.
“Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay.
“Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined . . . I will always be thankful for my career. [Now] my secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.”
Only two other footballers have publicly said they are gay, despite a number of high-profile male and female homosexual athletes from other sports openly discussing their sexuality in recent years.
In 1990, former England under-21 international Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to reveal he was gay. He took his own life eight years later, aged 37.
Clarke Carlisle, the Northampton defender who is chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said: “Huge admiration for Robbie Rogers – I hope retirement is not because of this revelation, you have our respect & support wherever you go!”
Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen, son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysen, publicly announced his homosexuality in an interview with a Swedish football magazine in 2011.
Darren Bailey, the FA’s director of football governance and regulation, added: “Following the announcement by Robbie Rogers on Friday, the FA is trying to make contact with him offering our support. Whether Robbie stays in the game or steps away for a break he has our full backing.”
The FA last year launched a six-point action plan to make the game more inclusive, as well as tackling homophobia and transphobia.
# # # #