With the 2014 FIFA World Cup underway in Brazil, there will be 32 nations and hundreds of players from around the world represented, yet none of them are identifying themselves as gay or bi men. That’s not to say there won’t be any playing on the field, just that none have chosen to be the first to take the stance at such a high profile event.
There are professional level soccer players who have come out, such as Robbie Rogers of Leeds United, and former German Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger. Both have represented their countries in previous World Cups, yet only made their sexuality public upon retirement. Rogers has since returned to the majors, playing with the LA Galaxy. Although not gay, international superstar David Beckham was featured wearing a sarong and appearing on the cover of the British gay magazine Attitude.
Like many sports, soccer players continuously show signs of affection to each other after goals and other levels of excellence on the playing field. Italian TV presenter and politician Alessandro Cecchi Paone, has publicly stated that there are gay players on the Italian World Cup team who will be playing in Brazil, but that they haven’t felt it necessary to come out publicly…yet. He was quoted as saying, “I can assure you that within the locker rooms the sexual orientation of players is known and accepted.”
The World Cup governing body FIFA’s Mission Statement proclaims that “Football can inspire communities and break down barriers. Football is for all. FIFA believes that everybody has the right to play football free from discrimination or prejudice and we are striving to ensure that this is the case.” At the 64th FIFA Congress, President Sepp Blatter discussed the power of football to foster social change and the fight against racism and any form of discrimination. He stated, “we must become one of today’s pioneers of hope” FIFA recently launched a #SayNoToRacism social media campaign, yet nothing has been noted to date with regard to any other form of discrimination, such as sexuality.
The 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups will take place in Russia and Qatar, respectively. Russia has already made headlines for its negative stance on homosexuality, and homosexuality is banned by law in Qatar. With decisions such as these being made, it’s perhaps time to shuffle things up in the upstairs offices. With over 1 billion viewers tuning in to the games over the next few weeks, that’s a significant a number of individuals to reach with a positive message of change on many levels, not just racism.