Robbie Rogers: Coming out in football is sadly still a big event

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Robbie Rogers is not the most recognisable name in football but after he revealed his retirement from the sport aged 25 on Friday, he has suddenly become familiar with supporters across the world. Rogers was most recently turning out for League One Stevenage on loan after being released from Leeds United in January, a series of injuries had seen his short career nosedive and he chose to bow out of the game while still young.

There was nothing major about that news, a series of nagging injuries had taken their toll on the ex-United States international of 18 caps, and despite him signing a recent deal with Chicago Fire back in the United States, maybe he thought his fitness and form had deteriorated to the extent he could not fully honour his commitments.

However, there was an explanation that saw the story plastered over the news pages and social network sites to post Rogers, a seemingly forgotten player who had been heading for the scrapheap, back in the full beam of the media spotlight. The explanation was that he was gay.

Rogers made the announcement via an eloquently written seven-paragraph blog in which he claimed football was his “escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I ever imagined”. He concluded with a startling revelation that “I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest… My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended”.

Those words hinted at the emotional toil that Rogers had to battle in order to suppress his sexual orientation in a sport that remains incredibly insular. Football has existed to be a victim of its own male dominated world, a macho surrounding that is coloured by intense competitiveness and tribalism both on the pitch and off it.

In preparations for Euro 2012, Polish police drew up stereotypes of English football fans to help deal with problematic behaviour and they predictably came up with the generic portrayal of the chauvinistic, beer-swilling, boisterous Neanderthal. It is those characteristics that have connotations of heterosexuality and sadly, with football well into the 21st century, being gay is still an unfortunate taboo.

Rogers became only the third professional footballer to reveal his homosexuality after Justin Fashanu back in 1990 and Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen in 2011. Hysen is still playing in the obscurity of the third tier of Swedish football, well away from the limelight, but Fashanu’s fate was tragic, hanging himself eight years after his initial announcement that was met with media vilification and rejection from his own brother, John.

Once a £1 million signing for European Champions Nottingham Forest in 1981, Fashanu’s revelations to the Sun saw his football career fizzle out whilst his private life was placed under the most intense media scrutiny, right the way up until his suicide of 1998 following a false accusation of sexual assault in America.

Justin Fashanu's bravery led to his tragic demise.

Justin Fashanu’s bravery led to his tragic demise.

In a BBC documentary fronted by Fashanu’s niece, Amal, said, “I’m proud Justin was my uncle. Football needs more people like my uncle if homophobic barriers are to be removed”.

It is those homophobic barriers that probably caused Rogers to feel the need to conceal his orientation. Worryingly, he spoke of his trepidation in revealing his secret, “for the past 25 years, I have been afraid to show who I really was because of fear”, he said in his parting blog that has summoned waves of support from his peers.

Fellow American players Chris Pontius, Heruclez Gomez, Omar Gonzalez and Abby Wambach, of the women’s national side, all tweeted their respect for Rogers while Robert Snodgrass, Ross McCormack, Stuart Holden and PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle all took to the social media website to voice their respect.

If Rogers had garnered such emphatic support from fellow professionals and equality groups after his announcement, one could ask why he was so overcome by fear in letting his secret out and, even more pertinently, why is he not comfortable continuing in his trade now he is outed?

Eddie Pope, an ex-USA international who played in 3 World Cups and is now an executive of the MLS players union, tweeted “brave men like you will make it so one day there’s no need for an announcement. That day can’t arrive soon enough”.

That is the disheartening problem that besieges homosexuality and football and will continue to do so until something drastic can smash the boundaries of normality to which the world of football has become accustomed, that a “coming out” of a player still remains a big thing, an event fitting of wide news coverage.

The hurdle of racism has been successfully overcome (with a few minor hiccups) since the days of banana throwing back in the 70s and 80s, and the presence of black players in a starting XI is now perfectly normal. A homosexual player? We are seemingly still light-years away from that same kind of acceptance. It is indicative of what an unfortunate quandary that is when a 25 year old has to turn his back on his profession because he felt he could not be true to himself.

Rogers will turn to a new career while football continues to work hard in the name of equality. In England, the FA last year set out a six point plan to make the game more inclusive, as well as tackling homophobia. “We do have players who’ve said that, while they are gay, they don’t feel comfortable enough to come out” said Chief Executive of the PFA Gordon Taylor.

“We know of players who are playing who are gay who’ve not had that confidence as yet. But, as the rest of the world becomes more civilised, hopefully that will come” said Taylor, but as Rogers bows out giving a clear insight into his own harrowing lack of confidence to reveal his truest feelings, one may hope the winger can leave a trailblazing legacy as football continues its search for equality.

One may hope more players will come out so being outed as a gay footballer is no longer an event worth reporting.


Written by Adam Gray

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The Syrian Uprising- Inspired and Led by a Footballer

In few of the revolutions in the past, there has always been that one single person whose contribution facilitated in turning the tides against the regime.

In Egypt, that person was Google executive, Wael Ghonim who was incarcerated for 11 days in Egyptian prison for creating a Facebook page dedicated to the murdered 28-yr-old Khaled Mohamed Saeed.

In Yemen, it was a 32-yr-old Nobel Prize winning mother of three, Tawakel Karman who inspired Yemenis to demand an end to then President’s 33-year rule on the country. And in Libya it was Mustafa Abdul Jalil, an ex-Minister of Justice under the Gaddafi regime, who was the quiet mastermind of the revolution.

In Syria, it is a 20-yr-old footballer named Abdul Baset Al-Sarout who is the face of the rebel forces in the city of Homs - a city that is currently under siege by the Syrian government.

The gifted goal keeper who last played for 8 times Syrian league champions – Al Karamah SC decided to forego his promising career in a cause which, to him, carried lot more significance.

It was ultimately his brother’s and an uncle’s death that led to Al-Sarout joining the rebels. In an interview to Al Jazeera, the Qatari news channel was able to uncover the fact that he has constantly been on the run, only travels by night and has survived three attempts on his life – talk about a life of an up and coming footballer.

No, this is the life of a revolutionist.

In the video below, he is seen vocalizing the rallying cries for martyrdom geared towards the mothers in a very inspiring fashion.

And it’s astonishing to recognize that he is only 20.

After the revolution is over and if Al-Sarout is still alive, he wants to return to the football field.

We can only hope that Al-Sarout and the Syrian people achieve what they deserve against the totalitarian regime of Bashar Assad. Prayers go out to the families of those who perished in this struggle and the approximately 235,368 (UNHCR and Turkey – Sep 2012) people who were forced to leave their houses.


Written by Shuaib Ahmed

Follow him on Twitter @footynions

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Gabriel Muniz – A Kid With No Feet But Lots of Heart

Gabriel Muniz

A few days old but had to share this remarkable story with you.

The boy you see above is Gabriel Muniz - an 11-yr-old Brazilian, born 170 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, with an unfortunate malformation of both feet. What makes his story interesting is that he is an aspiring footballer who wants to make it to the big stage.

We have heard of or seen athletes who have gone beyond their deficiencies to touch us from both a sporting as well as a humanistic perspective. But watching an 11-yr-old schoolboy playing football with kids that would otherwise be considered “normal”, personally, tops it all.

The awe inspiring part of the story is that Muniz – a very gifted and talented footballer - was recently invited by the Spanish giants, Barcelona to meet his favorite Argentinean Lionel Messi and also train with the club at their training academy in Brazil.

Gabriel comprehends the fact that his disability will never let him compete at a professional level. But he is hoping for the best and that is for the day when football becomes a Paralympic sport. And he gets to represent his country at the event.

Sports Columnist for Mail Online, Adam Shergold couldn’t have described my feelings in any better words than this:

“When your dream is to become a footballer and to play for Barcelona, nothing should get in your way - even if you have no feet”.

We all can learn a thing or two from Gabriel Muniz today. Most important being that we should not to take the gifts of our well being for granted.

To thank the one above, for the various blessings he has endowed us with and to think about kids like Gabriel before we start complaining about how our lives are not in line with what was expected.

I for one can say that this kid has enlightened me from within, with his bravery and free will. I hope it does to you as well.


Written by Shuaib Ahmed

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Mahmoud Sarsak- Free At Last

Taken from Teifidancer

Many may not know him by his name, but his action — is somehow linked to the long list of injustices that frequently does not take center stage when it comes to Israeli abuse of the innocent.

The 25-year-old member of the Palestinian football team, Mahmoud Sarsak was finally released on Tuesday after being held for three years in an Israeli Prison without official charges.

Thereafter, this unjustifiable indictment had driven him to stage a 90-day hunger strike, earlier this year.

He was arrested in July 2009, while on his way to attend a football match. As he attempted to cross from Gaza (native city) to West Bank, where the game was being held, Israel’s security service nabbed Sarsak claiming that he planted a bomb that injured an Israeli soldier. 

The government did not have the appropriate evidence required for a trial, hence, Sarsak was held was in his misery for 3 years, without charges. That is the story. 

Raises anguish and empathy for him to a certain extent, but one has to keep in mind that many like Sarsak still rot, without formal charges, in various prisons around the country.

A weakened Sarsak had this to say: 

“I thank God and all the athletes of the world.”

He surely has Blatter and FIFA to thank though. As his condition worsened, Sepp Blatter intervened and requested Israel’s football federation to immediately mediate on the behalf of the player with the authorities. 

Ex Manchester United legend Eric Cantona was among a few others that had signed a petition calling for his freedom.

Jubilant Palestinians greeted Sarsak on his first day out of prison rejoicing as if they were victorious over the oppressors, but these sort of random arrests are quite common throughout the territories. 

For the moment, the center of attention is Mahmoud Sarsak but soon, all this excitement will soften as news of other atrocities will continue to pour in.

And the world remains, as it always has been - hesitatingly observant. My friends, this was not only a moment to celebration for Sarsak & family but also a moment that the entire football community can dwell in.

Written by Shuaib Ahmed
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