MADRID: Death threats and insults: Homophobia remains omnipresent in Spain’s sacred football world, where players don’t dare “come out” in an otherwise gay friendly country whose capital hosts the WorldPride until July 2.
“First, they refused to take their showers with me,” says Jose Manuel Garoz, who was sidelined from his amateur local team in his teens when his co-players found out he was gay via social networks.
“They provoked me all the time and we argued. We came to blows and the president decided to kick me out,” the young man, now 22, remembers as he stands next to a football pitch where he now plays in a “gay-friendly” Madrid club, GMadrid Sports.
A world leader in LGBT rights, Spain became the third country to authorize gay marriage in 2005 and Madrid is now hosting the WorldPride, one of the biggest celebrations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
But homosexuality remains a taboo in the professional football world.
“With around eight percent of the population gay and lesbian, it’s not normal at all that there are no overtly gay players,” says Paco Ramirez, president of Spain’s Observatory against Homophobia.
He believes this is because they fear it will “affect their career”.
“For a player to dare come out under these circumstances, there is no assurance that sponsors won’t drop him,” adds Julien Pontes of the French Rouge Direct collective, which fights homophobia in football.