21 March, 2011

World's second ever gay footballer 'comes out:'

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The World's second ever openly gay footballer: Anton Hysén
Anton Hysén (son of former Liverpool star Glenn) has this week become the second ever gay pro footballer to 'come out.' Hopefully a happier fate awaits the 20 year-old than his only predeccesor; Justin Fashanu who sadly hanged himself after much abuse. To Hysen's generation, it seems, Fashanu has become a fable. 
But Hysén isn’t one for introspection. Here is what he said to the Swedish football magazine Offside: “I am a footballer. And gay. If I perform as a footballer, then I do not think it matters if I like girls or boys . . . People may call me anything they want, it will just make me even more psyched.”
Perhaps he has his father — the former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysén — to thank for his positive, robust approach. Hysén senior became known not just for his sensational tackles but for his refusal to take the press seriously. He would answer all questions with the word “sex”.
Ex 'Pool star Glenn Hysen answered all media questions with the word 'sex'
Twenty years later his son, who plays for Sweden’s second division Utsiktens BK, has caught the media off guard, refusing to conform to football’s hetero - sexual diktats. 
Growing up, did the other boys at his football academy suspect? “People thought I was a bit on that side. In the showers they would say, ‘Don’t drop the soap, Anton’s here’. I’m like ‘whatever’. If you want to do a homo joke I don’t care because I do it myself.”
I look for signs of incongruence, of any distress in his facial expressions, and find none.
"I'll support you if you want to be a ballerina" - Hysen Snr. to Hysen Jnr.
Hysén came out to his friends and family soon after he realised himself. “My dad was really nice. He said, ‘You can do whatever you want, you can become a ballerina, I’ll always support you’. My brothers were the same.” (Tobias, 29, and Alexander, 23, are also footballers, playing for IFK Göteborg and GIF Sundsvall respectively.) This might surprise some Swedes. Ten years ago Glenn Hysén, 51, attacked a man who tried to grope him in a public toilet. By the time the incident reached the newspapers, the insinuation — strenuously denied by Glenn Hysén — was that it was a homophobic attack. “It got twisted,” says Hysén junior. “If you touch me down there when you don’t have permission I would hit you too.” 
“I want to show everyone that it’s not a big deal. It shouldn’t matter who you are. Some players dropped out of their careers because they were afraid of the reaction of the fans.” He says he doesn’t know of any other gay players, although he has heard rumours.  
TV4 (Sweden) removed Hysen article due to torrent of hate comments
“Dad said, ‘A lot of people in this world are going to be really proud of you. You’re doing a great thing, not just for football, or for gay people, but for the whole community’.” The prospect of a negative reaction from fans and the public didn’t deter him. “Why would I care?” he says,  “You can call me ‘gay’, ‘fag’ — I don’t care. I have my family and friends’ support. Other than that I don’t care.” It is still early days, but he claims the reaction has been largely supportive. “There have been some negative [comments]. People start thinking you just want the attention of the media. I don’t read much of it, though.” 
This is undoubtedly wise: after our interview, the Swedish channel TV4 removes its article about him from its website because of the volume of hate-filled comments. 
Hysén says that he has never been attracted to any fellow players, but when I ask about boyfriends, football is the sticking point. “I’ve never had a relationship,” he says. “This is the main problem: no one [gay] knows about football and no one is even interested in football!” He shrieks these last few words with the disgust one might reserve for describing a hate crime. 
His club has proved supportive, reassuring him that they will suspend players who make abusive comments. Given his experiences, why does he think other gay players stay in the closet? “It’s different if you’re in the Premier League,” he says. “The press will be much bigger. And if you don’t have the support of your family ... Fashanu was rejected by his brother. It will be easier for me but it won’t be easy — I don’t think football has changed. But it’s 2011, it’s time to change.”  
Justin Fashanu: only previously openly gay fottballer committed suicide
It’s still possible that sport, even football, may yet do some - thing similar for homo - phobia. But, as Anton Hysén will doubtless be finding out, there is a long, long way to go.
In the meantime, all sports might reflect that tackling prejudices one by one — first race, then sexuality — is an odd way to proceed. Why should one prejudice be singled out as “better” or “worse” than another? Football shouldn’t just revisit the taboo of homosexuality. It should also tackle the absurd premise that buying a ticket earns people not only the right to watch sportsmen but also to abuse them.

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