LOS ANGELES: Robbie Rogers, who thought coming out as a gay man would spell the end of his dream of a football career, has signed with the LA Galaxy and will be Major League Soccer’s first openly gay player.
“For 25 years, I’ve been afraid to share a secret with someone,” Rogers said Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as the Galaxy held a press conference to introduce their new player.
“And I finally did that. I kept my secret because I thought I couldn’t be both a soccer player and a gay athlete.
“I was afraid to be back in an environment that affected me in the past. After I finally got in here, everything was completely normal.”
Now Rogers is poised to become the first openly gay athlete to play in a major US professional sports league for men.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said the club must still receive international transfer approval, but if it comes in time Rogers will be in his 18-man squad for Sunday’s home game against Seattle.
However, Arena wasn’t sure when Rogers might actually play.
“We will slowly build him into it,” Arena said, noting that Rogers has been out of the game for about five months. “He will need his proper minutes in games before he is a player in a starting position.”
The Galaxy’s acquisition of Rogers is another milestone for gay men in team sports.
Rogers, who turned 26 on May 12, revealed his sexual orientation in February in a blog posting in which he also announced his retirement from football.
Rogers had played briefly for Leeds United in England this season, but left the club after a loan deal to English League One side Stevenage expired in January.
In March he told The Guardian newspaper in Britain that he felt the macho culture of football made it “impossible” to come out, and he needed to step away from the game to get his personal life on track.
On Saturday, Rogers said that contrary to his fears, training with the Galaxy in recent weeks had felt completely natural, and had rekindled his passion for the game.
“The locker rooms in the MLS are a little bit different than in Europe . . . The MLS definitely is ready and the United States is ready for other (openly gay) athletes in other sports.”