The Man Who Doesn’t Actually Exist: A Conversation With A Gay Bundesliga Footballer

13 Sep

Our good pals Jenny_Jenkins & Sashatwen did this great translation of an article that appeared on Tuesday on German website Fluter. Everything in italics after the jump is their translation. Thank you so much ladies, this is important stuff.

The Man Who Doesn’t Actually Exist: A Conversation With A Gay Bundesliga Footballer.

Note: The translation in English is in this post. The German original (in full) can be found AT THIS LINK which directs to the magazine.

This interview, which is the first time a gay footballer has ever been interviewed about his experiences, albeit anonymously, in Germany, is translated in full by jenny_jenkins and sashatwen.

THE MAN WHO DOESN’T ACTUALLY EXIST: A CONVERSATION WITH A GAY BUNDESLIGA FOOTBALLER

We’ve spoken for a long time but it was unclear until recently if we would ever meet. I enter the room and find a visibly overwhelmed young man who would obviously love to run away in the next moment. He stays. No one is allowed to know about this meeting, because it never happened. In spite of his huge misgivings he speaks for the first time about his sexuality, one that has no place in the world of football.

You’ve just come out of an interview with a public service broadcaster. What would happen if homosexuality came up?

I’d lie, that’s obvious. I’d try to keep that subject entirely out of the public sphere. The more it would be discussed, the greater the pressure on me. I can’t afford to have this great big discussion revolve around me.

Isn’t the pressure already immense?

Of course. The price for living my dream in the Bundesliga is very high. I have to put on an act and deny my true self. At first it was a huge game and no problem, but as time passes it has taken its toll on me. I’m not sure I can stand the strain that comes with being a model heterosexual player and me potentially being found out until the end of my career.

Fear of Publicity

What would be so awful if it came out? No one in show business cares when Hape Kerkeling moderates a television show.

I think that football and the media are completely different. Of course I find it stupid, but there’s a cliché about “typical gay” people that fits into the bright world of television. Footballers, on the other hand, are the living breathing stereotype of masculinity. They have to love sport, fight aggressively, and be great big role models all at once. Gays simply aren’t all that. Period. Or is someone supposed to get up there and educate a raging mob of fans before the game with the message that “the queers” are really just ordinary guys and that they’ll be playing too? It’s unimaginable. In a situation like that one, in the stadium, or after the game, the slightest provocation will be blown out of proportion. I would not be safe if my sexuality was out in the open.

Are you angry at the fans?

No, absolutely not. I heard once that in heated moments people are ruled by their hard-wiring, and that tolerance isn’t built into that. I have to accept that in the stadium, and the fans are an essential part of the force that drives me every match-day. In general, heterosexuals don’t reflect on their sexuality. They would never hit upon the idea to question themselves for years as to whether their own feelings were genuine. After all, it’s the way it’s supposed to be. From this position I have to hope for tolerance, because understanding will never happen. This is too personal a subject and we gays are not much better when it comes to heterosexuals or lesbians. But we’re certainly tolerant. But even if I were to cope with the fans, the overwhelming publicity would be awful.

Why is there fear of this publicity?

The stories, the headlines and the magazines. Everyone would love to know about the wicked things my partner and I get up to beneath the sheets. Does the super-man footballer lie on top or on the bottom? I can think of a few! My passion – football – would be irrelevant. Either I could stroll to an event with my boyfriend and then I’d be in the media for three weeks, or I insist on my privacy and couldn’t be true to myself. There is simply no solution. It’s unimaginable that I could, like a heterosexual player, show up with a new partner and then be forgotten the next day. Normality doesn’t exist. At least, it wouldn’t be normal for me to allow the entire country to discuss my intimate life. That only concerns me and the person who is at my side.

And is there “a person at your side” – someone about whom one could ask one of these hated questions?

Today and now I find this question actually very important. I have no one and neither do the other well known players that I know of. Although: I was once in a relationship. But you can imagine that a month long game of hide-and-seek is poisonous to any partnership. I had to make a decision. Sure, it was nice to be successful in football after that. It was priced accordingly.

Instead of a boyfriend is there a hired WAG for important occasions?

That cliché is unfortunately true. There are events I can’t go to alone and needs must. That the way everyone does it. Only I never had to pay because after all, a genuine gay guy like me has his best girlfriends.

You spoke just now of other players. Is there a sort of “association of gay Bundesliga players” and does the rest of the team know about your homosexuality?

(laughs) No, there’s no association. Quite the contrary. I know of other players in the Liga. Actual meetings never occur though – it would be too obvious. It’s a strange parallel existence that continues into the team. It’s rarely spoken of, but everyone must be aware.

Professional Wishes, Private Dreams

So aren’t there any problems within the team?

Absolutely not. I don’t know a single player in the whole of the league that has a problem with it. There are some who pose questions with great interest – but that’s an absolute exception. Of course some situations, like showering, are initially uncomfortable for both sides. I have no interest in my fellow players however and eventually both sides cease to care. Also my colleagues are not ignorant, in spite of their reputations.

And what do these colleagues ask?

Oh, quite technical things (laughs). But they usually ask about the boyfriend. I know the love-lives of my teammates from the newspapers. With me they have to ask. It’s all quite normal.

Was coming out of the closet after the friendly encouragement of the head of the DFB, Theo Zwanziger, no option?

Not really. It’s so easy to say, if you didn’t have to go into the stadium on the next game-day. Perhaps it would be easier to get over if more players were to out themselves, but at the moment I see little hope of that. Finally, it would only be a minority, which would make it easy to quibble about it.

Why did you decide to do this interview?

It’s important, to take the first step. I’m in the process of giving myself a trial run. In addition you can understand my situation and that makes it easier to talk about. Others don’t wish to take that step, in spite of the anonymity. Perhaps my colleagues don’t feel encouraged. But I hope they will. We can talk again in a year and then perhaps I can talk under my own name.

What does your future look like?

To continue developing in football. Finally I have a few desires that I want to fulfil. My personal situation won’t change. Of course it would make me very happy if there was a sudden avalanche of outings and I could gaze in astonishment at all the guys I hadn’t known about. A bit of normality would make me happy. Just to go openly with a potential partner to a restaurant. That’s a dream.

The timing of the article is interesting as Angela Merkel today urged gay footballers to come out at a forum in Berlin focusing on integration in sport saying “The fact that there are still fears for some people for their own situation means we need to send out a clear message: you must not be afraid.”

I do believe it is just a matter of time before someone takes those steps forward. I think  as fans we really need to champion causes like Red Card Homophobia, You Can Play Project, The Justin Campaign, and International Day Against Homophobia to let the public and players know that we’re supportive of creating an inclusive, safe space for everyone in the sport.

Thanks again to Jenny & Sasha for doing this translation. I think it really brings it home for people when they can hear how it’s affecting a player’s life in their own words.

– Lozil

14 Responses to “The Man Who Doesn’t Actually Exist: A Conversation With A Gay Bundesliga Footballer”

  1. Jenny September 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I noticed you asked on Twitter if you could re-print the translation. But you should know – you never have to ask ❤

    • headbandsandheartbreak September 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      Oh thanks, you know me, I still like to ask. 🙂 Thanks for the great work you guys did on this. Important stuff. Did you see the Merkel statement that I tacked on the end? She just reiterated the coming out stuff today at a forum in Berlin.

      • Jenny September 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

        This has been a topic in Germany for some time. Lahm gave the first interview a footballer has given for a gay men’s magazine; Neuer, Khedira, Ozil and Gomez have all made statements of support since 2010 (and many more players have too probably – those are just the ones I know of).

        And the DFB has pledged full support (and has been openly encouraging it) for years.

        The trouble: It’s only okay to be gay in a few places and we forget that. Maybe 10 countries in Europe + Canada and Australia. Everywhere else it’s either dangerous, illegal, or just plain unpleasant or undesirable (like: I don’t suppose being openly gay in the American south or bible belt, especially outside major cities, is a bed of roses, for example).

        These players in those countries do not live in a vacuum. They have to travel, they may have international careers in places where it is dangerous to just be yourself, or may need to travel there.

        Then you have FIFA caving in all the wrong ways on every bloody issue that they can (I’ve ranted about this before) like allowing federations to force their women players to wear hijab in countries without a dress-code during away games – when they could have made it part and parcel of allowing the hijab as part of the jersey and dealt with both problems (women being forced, women not being allowed) all in one fell swoop – and it just disgusts me.

        I would LOVE for someone to say: you don’t allow a gay player or you force a woman to cover up during a game to Canada when she doesn’t want to (or you don’t have a team at all!) and goodbye to your men’s national team until you come to heel on this issue – but it’ll never happen.

        Oh God – I’m so depressed about it all I’m just spewing my feelings all over the place 😦

  2. Forzasusan September 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. I agree…its a terrible thing for someone to have to live, fearful that they will be harassed for who they love.

  3. Mandi September 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    I do wish footballers could be who they are, and be true to themselves. But at the same time, what this footballer said about the media is true. They would be hounded constantly. Any event they went to with their boyfriend would be in the news for weeks after. And the fans? Not all, as is obvious on this blog, but a lot of fans are still idiots and homophobic. The chants that are said in the stadiums are bad now but if a footballer actually came out? I don’t think anybody, any player on any team, could ignore them.

    Wow, reading this it sounds like I don’t want any body to come out. I just want to state that that’s not my view at all. I want to hope that some day soon a player can come out and not have to fear media or fans reactions at all. That they’d be treated just as a heterosexual player is.

    And besides, if female players are allowed to be out and still play, why can’t men?

    • Jenny September 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      Fans of the female sport are fairly cosmopolitan – and are usually women themselves.

      And women in the game (Lira, Anke, Birgit – of the German NT) have said that half the women who play are lesbian and it isn’t even an issue of any kind – not even a bit.

      That makes a difference. Here it’s still a code of silence – though I was heartened to read his fellow professionals weren’t as silly as you might assume.

  4. Sveva September 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing.
    After Cassano’s hideous press conference during the Euro Cup, I’m happy that he says that there aren’t any problems with his teammates and that even though he lives a difficult situation, at least he feels comfortable and safe with his colleagues. I’m afraid this doesn’t happen really often in youth sports. I know many young boys who get bullied by their teammates for their sexuality (or more often because they are “suspected” of being homosexual), that’s why Cassano’s words are so dangerous.

    • Jenny September 14, 2012 at 12:22 am #

      After reading this account of how “everyone knows” and hearing about the “pink list” that journalists in Germany have (a list of footballers known to be gay who are never to be asked about their relationships or anything about gay issues – to keep them out of the limelight on the subject) I was wondering if Cassano was deflecting attention away from his teammates.

      Ridiculously optimistic, perhaps – but I suddenly wondered.

  5. Ellie September 13, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this. It was an incredibly brave first step. It’s got to take some strength of character to grant an interview like this knowing that it’ll probably exacerbate that fear of being “outed”

  6. Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Thanks for posting! I had already read the German article and it’s good to know that this gets some international coverage as well as it’s such an important issue.
    I think the interviewee is terribly courageous, kudos to him! Hopefully that’s a step into a better future for him and the league (players, fans, managers) as a whole.

    • panama September 14, 2012 at 3:45 am #

      No diea why thsi showed up anonymously… It was me.

  7. jellyace September 14, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    I think I would fear the fan reaction the most, you know: the dumbass fans who make monkey noises and toss bananas onto the pitch, the fans who sing insulting chants, the fans who bring laser pointers and flares, the hooligans who tear up the seats and climb the fences. Their brains are so clouded with testosterone, that there isn’t enough room for sensitivity. How could this coming out work, if even the Respect theme of FIFA fails?

  8. Sasha Twen September 14, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    I’m glad I could be a part in spreading it. Thanks for sharing it here. It remains to be seen whether the article will generate a new discussion – the magazine isn’t exactly high profile. For those who read German, spiegel.de has reported on it:

    http://www.spiegel.de/sport/fussball/bundesliga-profi-bekennt-sich-zu-homosexualitaet-a-855549.html

  9. Theresa September 14, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    What a brave article. It’s gotta be hard and at least this player can feel safe talking about this.

    Thanks for posting!

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