German goalkeeper urges gay players to come out
Manchester Utd target Manuel Neuer says fans will come to accept homosexual players
German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has called on gay footballers to come out - and to ignore the reaction of fans. His remarks come not long after Fifa president Sepp Blatter was accused of homophobia over comments he made about gay fans wanting to watch the World Cup in Qatar, and after the sexism row at Sky Sports led to accusations that the game in England was still living in the dark ages.
The 24-year-old Schalke 04 player, who could be in line for a big money transfer to Manchester United in the summer, made his comments in an interview with German celebrity magazine Bunte. He said: "Yes, those who are gay should say so. It relieves a burden... And the fans will get over it quickly. What matters is the performance delivered by the player, not his sexual preference."
Neuer is not the only player to have voiced such opinions in Germany. Speaking to the same magazine last November, Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez pointed out that many senior politicians in Germany are gay and that an openly gay player "would play as if they had been liberated". He added: "Being gay should no longer be a taboo topic."
Neither Neuer nor Gomez are gay themselves, they’re simply anti-homophobia. They were part of the young multi-racial German team that impressed at the World Cup in South Africa last year, and knocked England out in the last 16.
If Neuer does end up joining United as a replacement for retiring keeper Edwin Van Der Sar then the FA could finally find a player who is prepared to make a stand against homophobia.
Liberal attitudes are hard to come by in English football, where players appear terrified of being branded gay. Some have sued newpapers for insinuations about their sexuality and last year the FA searched in vain to find a player who was prepared to front a campaign against homophobia in football.
In the end they agreed to produce a viral video that didn't feature any players, but even that proved too much for some people and the FA ended up cancelling the official launch of the film.
However, the game in Germany is not entirely free of anti-gay sentiment. There was an outcry when the agent of injured German midfielder Michael Ballack, who missed the tournament, put the team's free-flowing style of play, and the fact they did not make the final, down to the fact that the team contained a "bunch of gays".