In February, Robbie Rogers revealed his sexuality on his personal blog, choosing to simultaneously "step away" from the game. The former Columbus Crew and Leeds Utd winger has now given his first set of interviews, including a piece published in The Guardian on Friday. In it, the 25-year-old explains the motivations behind his decision, his frustrations and the conflicting emotions he felt from a young age:
"I started feeling very different and it was a case of, 'All right, I'm good at football and I get attention from girls. Why don't I want that? What's wrong with me?' I realised I was gay when I was 14 or 15. I was like, 'I want to play football. But there are no gay footballers. What am I going to do?'
The former USMNT star felt that coming out was not compatible was a professional football career:
"In football it's obviously impossible to come out – because no-one has done it. No one. It's crazy and sad. I thought: 'Why don't I step away and deal with this and my family and be happy?'
A footballer has come out while still playing, but Justin Fashanu's story ended in tragedy. After announcing he was gay in 1990, the first black footballer to command a £1m transfer fee was largely ostracised, with Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough even calling him a "bloody poof." Fashanu was found hanged in 1998.
Rogers says he has read about Fashanu's story, and felt sorry that the reaction to his coming out was not nearly as positive as the one he had personally experienced. Yet the California native is fully aware of the struggle, and the fear of the reaction from team-mates and fans:
"I was just fearful. I was very fearful how my team-mates were going to react. Was it going to change them? Even though I'd still be the same person would it change the way they acted towards me – when we were in the dressing room or the bus?"
Would I have had the same opportunities when I was younger if I'd come out? I don't think so. There would have been that mentality: 'Oh he's gay … how will that affect the team?'"
Maybe a lot of fans aren't homophobic. But, in a stadium, sometimes they want to destroy you. In the past I would have said: 'They don't know I'm gay so it doesn't mean anything.' But, now they know it, am I going to jump in the stands and fight them?
Rogers is now focusing on the world of fashion, running a menswear brand he co-owns and considering an offer to study at the London School of Fashion. But he hints that his time playing the beautiful game may not be over:
Football will always be part of me. I don't know if I'm done playing yet. I might ask [the coach] Bruce Arena if I can train with LA Galaxy – we'll see. I miss it and think about it a lot.
Click here to read the full interview.
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