You’re gay. It’s not a big thing.

Anton Hysén looks every inch the modern footballer. The 20-year-old Swede has his initials tattooed behind one ear and his parents’ names on each forearm. On his left arm, in particularly elaborate lettering, is: "UNWA". This is Hysén’s tribute to Liverpool, his birthplace, and the terrace anthem of his favourite club – You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Hysén, the son of former Liverpool defender and Swedish international Glenn Hysén, is currently walking very much alone. This month, the left-sided midfielder came out as Sweden’s first openly gay male footballer. He is only the second high-level footballer to come out in the world, ever. The first, Justin Fashanu, revealed he was gay in 1990, found himself shunned by the footballing world, including his brother, John, and hanged himself eight years later. (John later expressed his remorse.)

A generation on, when gay men and women play prominent roles in every other kind of entertainment, it looks increasingly bizarre that world football has no openly gay players – apart from Hysén. Although, as he points out, he currently plays in the fourth tier of Swedish football, working in the local Volvo factory to support himself, Hysén’s honesty about his sexuality is a big deal. His family is a footballing dynasty in Sweden; Hysén’s older brother, Tobias, is a Swedish international; their father, Glenn, was a tough defender who remains a celebrity in Sweden. In Britain, it would be rather like John Terry having a footballing son who came out. Perhaps most significantly of all, Hysén, like the English cricketer Steven Davies, who came out last month, made his declaration at the start of his career.


Still the exception: Fans of the left-leaning FC St. Pauli holding up banners saying: “St. Pauli is gay. Tolerance & Respect” St. Pauli fans were the first to ban racist, sexist & homophobic chants in their stadium and the club had the first openly gay president in pro football.

A bouncy, articulate athlete who speaks excellent English with an American twang picked up during a year at college there, Hysén is utterly at ease with his decision when we meet at his family’s apartment in Gothenburg before his team, Utsiktens BK, play their first big match of the new Swedish season. He has no time for gay stereotypes. As he politely puts it: "I’m not a big Pride person. There’s nothing wrong with Pride but it’s just not my thing."

His story began, however, at Stockholm’s Pride march in 2007, when his dad made a surprising appearance. It was controversial because the gay community assumed Glenn was a homophobe after he threw a punch at a man who groped him in the toilets at Frankfurt airport in 2001. But this macho football legend confounded critics by talking with great empathy of "a 16-year-old who didn’t want to come out because he feared what his teammates would think". No one realised at the time, but he was referring to his son. "He said, ‘I’m doing it for you,’" remembers Hysén.

Read on…

  

10 thoughts on “You’re gay. It’s not a big thing.”

  1. love this story. i feel the same way, on a smaller scale of course.

    im an avid basketball player, and not that bad (have won some intramural championships among a number of us universities) and no one knows im gay. they would be shocked to find out as i look and act like the typical athlete.

    i wonder sometimes what the reaction would be. shock atleast, but i wonder how people would respond to playing a physical sport with me. something you dont see in sports… has to be more gays then those who come out… but i wonder how high the number is?

    1. I would imagine that it about reflects the percentage of gays in the population…That’s right around 10% right?

  2. It is really the pits to be an athlete and secretly gay. It destroyed my career as a mid-distance runner. The guilt was crushing and self defeating.

  3. The football fans in Europe are amoungst the most homophobic, racists and ingorant group in Europe. Not all of course as it has a big fanbase, but you won’t see gay people hanging around football stadiums and pubs on match days. Eastern Europe has this in spades, but then they have a lot of ignorance and homophobia everywhere else in those parts.

  4. It’s all about peer pressure. No one wants to admit it’s ok to be tolerant. The more that come out the better it will be.

  5. You can say the same thing about any high profile, high tier level sport in America. We all know there are professional football, baseball and basketball players that are queer, but the few who have the courage to say they are gay are just that; few.

    Usually, they come out after their careers are over or through some paparazzi discovery. You can’t be a role model as an adult to young queers, if you don’t own who you are.

  6. As a Liverpool fan I have to say he is definately not alone and that I’m proud that this lad has admitted he is gay. Hopefully it will encourage others in top flight football to follow suit.
    I would like to think the majority of people in Britain aren’t bothered about the sexuality of a player, and are more concerned about his (or her) performance on the pitch!

  7. I wonder how good his Football skills are? What’s his Tackle like?

    Whiterabbit.

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