Wednesday, 18 January 2012

German soccer president calls on players to come out

The sea may separate them but the footballing communities of Germany and the UK are both facing similar issues.

It is perhaps in these two countries where the issue of homosexuality in the national sport has been most prevalent.

We have already touched on the most recent case in the UK, where a non-league footballer got sacked by his team for a homophobic tweet aimed at rugby legend Gareth Thomas. The fact he has since been resigned by another team is very disappointing.

But in Germany the debate is happening at a much higher level.

Theo Zwanziger, the outgoing German soccer federation president, has said it’s time for gay players to come out, reportedly saying they should "have the courage to declare themselves".

However these comments have been countered by the national team captain Phillip Lahm (right), who said: "The politicians can come out these days, for sure, but they don’t have to play in front of 60,000 people every week. I don’t think that the society is that far ahead that it can accept homosexual players as something normal as in other areas."

It is hard to imagine Premier League chief Richard Scudamore and national team captain John Terry having such a public argument around LGBT issues.

What is equally clear is that both the comments from the German figureheads are from people who have thought about the issue but differ on this pretty major point.

It perhaps sums up the situation where football, particularly in Europe and North America has reached: do we - supporters, campaigners, footballing authorities - encourage someone to come out; or do we continue to ignore the situation and hope it will change in the future as society's views develop?

The simple answer is that while nobody should be forced to publicly accept who they really are, steps should be taken to ensure that the support network is in place for anyone that wants too.

To think, like Phillip Lahm, that footballing society is not ready for a player to say "I'm a member of the LGBT community" is simply sweeping an issue under the carpet and hoping that somebody else will approach what is a difficult, but ultimately not impossible, subject.

As has been said before homosexuality in football remains the last taboo and until we all can stand up and acknowledge that something can be done about it, it will sadly - and wrongly - remain hidden away.

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