‘You can count on us’, German footballers say to LGBT+ players (John MacDougall/AFP/ Getty)
Over 800 German footballers have pledged their support to any teammates who may be struggling with their sexuality and afraid to come out while playing.
To date no male footballer has ever come out while actively playing in any of the German professional leagues, a troubling reflection of the homophobia engrained in the sport.
This week, hundreds of players decided that needs to change.
“No one should be forced into coming out. That is a personal decision for each individual to make,” the players write in the German football magazine 11Freunde. “However, we want anyone who decides to come out to know they have our full support and solidarity.”
The magazine’s latest cover features Bundesliga players Max Kruse and Christopher Trimmel of Union Berlin, as well as Dedryck Boyata and Niklas Stark of Hertha Berlin, accompanied by the words “Ihr könnt auf uns zählen!” (“You can count on us!”)
Die 11FREUNDE Redaktion und über 800 Fußballerinnen und Fußballer in Deutschland stärken homosexuellen Spielern den Rücken. #ihrkönntaufunszählen pic.twitter.com/X9Dd3vZdkJ
— 11Freunde (@11Freunde_Red) February 17, 2021
The campaign was signed by the entire squads of multiple Bundesliga clubs, including Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Schalke, Werder Bremen and Freiburg.
In their message the footballers promise to stand up against any bigotry levied against an LGBT+ player should they choose to come out.
“We say to all who struggle with the decision of coming out: we will support and encourage you, and if necessary, fight against any hostilities you may face,” they vow. “Because you are doing what is right and we are on your side.”
Only two male pro players have ever come out in Germany. The first one, Heinz Bonn, who played in the Bundesliga between 1970 and 1973, was outed posthumously.
Former Stuttgart and Aston Villa star Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out as gay after ending his active career, tweeted that the campaign was “another step in the right direction”.
“I can understand anybody who would prefer not to face up to it,” commented Union Berlin striker Max Kruse after the campaign launch. “But if one of my teammates came out, I’d protect him from the idiots out there.”