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Manchester United’s Anders Lindegaard says game needs ‘gay hero’ | Marcus Christenson

27th November 2012

No top-flight footballer has come out since Justin Fashanu 22 years ago but United goalkeeper has made a move in the right direction by writing passionately about the need for a gay hero

Twenty-two years is quite a long time – apart from in football it seems. In 1990, Justin Fashanu came out as a homosexual, but since then no other footballer has followed in his footsteps. Not a single person. Not in top-flight football at least.

The Puerto Rican featherweight Orlando Cruz recently became the first active boxer to reveal publicly he is gay, cricket’s Steven Davies came out last year and rugby’s Gareth Thomas did likewise in 2009.

The Swedish fourth division player Anton Hysen, the son of the former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysen, came out last year, and is as close as you will get to a high-profile footballer doing the same.

Even more disturbingly, there does not even seem to be a debate. No one seems to be talking about it, encouraging homosexual players to come out, discussing the matter openly. In football, homosexuality is still taboo.

Which is why it was encouraging to see the Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard write passionately about the need for a “gay hero” in the world of football last week.

Lindegaard, a Danish international who has played seven games for United this season, wrote in his blog: “As a footballer I think first and foremost that a homosexual colleague is afraid of the reception he could get from the fans. My impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual.

“Homosexuality in football is a taboo subject. The atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough. The mechanisms are primitive, and it is often expressed through a classic stereotype that a real man should be brave, strong and aggressive. And it is not the image that a football fan associates with a gay person.

“The problem for me is that a lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserve to be compared with modern society’s development in the last decades. While the rest of the world has been more liberal, civilised and less prejudiced, the world of football remains stuck in the past when it comes to tolerance.”

Research shows that around 12% of Danish men are gay, but out of a 1,000 members of the Danish Players’ Association no one has come out to say that they are homosexual. The Players’ Association gives two reasons for this: firstly, that the players themselves stop playing because they can’t associate themselves with the macho world of football and, secondly, that the ramifications of coming out would be too severe.

The United goalkeeper is critical of the Danish Football Federation (DBU) for not doing enough to combat homophobia whereas the Dutch Football Association is behind this brilliant advert. It is, sadly, difficult to imagine the English FA doing the same. And this is despite a recent House of Commons committee report saying that “homophobia may now be a bigger problem in football than other forms of discrimination”. It reported that recent research had found that 25% of fans think that football is homophobic while 10% think that football is racist. About 14% of recent match attendees had also reported hearing homophobic abuse.

Lindegaard, who admits that he thought long and hard about what to write, and discussed it with his girlfriend Missé Beqiri before publishing, added: “To turn a blind eye only indicates that one is not recognising that there is a problem. Of course there is a problem if young homosexuals, who love football, have to quit the sport because they feel excluded.

“That is in every way an unpleasant trend that does not belong in a modern and liberal society. Any discrimination towards people is and should be totally unacceptable, whether it is about skin colour, religion, sexuality etc. Homosexuals are in need of a hero. They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality.”

So 22 years after Fashanu’s brave decision, the wait for another top-flight footballer to come out continues. But at least someone is talking about it. And talking is a good start.

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