South African soccer player Phuti Lekoloane has revealed that coming out as gay in 2015 almost put an end to his career.
The 28-year-old said gay players in South Africa face significant challenges when working at a professional level in soccer.
“I risked everything to live my truth, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to come out now because of the stereotype. There is a lot at stake,” he told TimesLIVE.
“If you come out, you have a lot to lose. I have lost everything that I have dreamed of.”
South African gay soccer player Phuti Lekoloane believes he would have excelled in the field if he hadn’t come out as gay.
“I wanted to play in the [national first division], but if teams in this league discriminate against you because of your sexuality, then it’s another thing.
“You can’t go there if teams still don’t understand homosexuality, so that is how I got rejected. If I was in the closet, I think I would have made it.”
Lekoloane, who plays for Makapanstad RFC in the ABC Motsepe League, added: “My sexuality has robbed me of my career.”
“Some people depend on football to put bread on the table. It’s always tricky, especially in football, but I would advise people to start living their truth and the more people that come out, the more we break the stereotype.”
I wanted to play in the [national first division], but if teams in this league discriminate against you because of your sexuality, then it’s another thing.
Furthermore, he suggested that many more soccer players remain in the closet because they know it will impact on their careers.
“There are a lot of gay guys in the closet that are playing in the league and the funny part is that it’s not only players, even the team managers are (gay).
“We do have bisexual team managers and coaches who are in the closet, so it’s always like that. I am the sacrificial lamb.”
Homophobia in football surged by 9 per cent in 2018.
A 2018 study from Kick It Out found that reports of homophobia in football had risen by 9 per cent.
There were 111 reports of homophobic abuse incidents around football matches in the 2017/18 season, a 9 percent increase from the previous report.
Six transphobic incidents were also reported in 2017/18.
Racist incidents remain the most prevalent, with 273 reported incidents over the past year, up 22 percent year-on-year.