Leeds United footballers last night rallied around former team-mate Robbie Rogers, after the American admitted he was gay, and had taken the difficult decision to retire from football at the age of 25.
Rogers, capped 18 times by America and a member of the 2008 Olympic squad, made the admission on his blog, saying that he had been afraid to reveal his secret and he now wants to live a new life outside of football:
“Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay.
“Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.”
He added: “Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football.”
Rogers departed Leeds last month by mutual consent after a loan spell at Stevenage, but his old team-mates quickly took to Twitter to offer support:.
“Full respect to @robbierogers and good luck in the next chapter of your life whatever you choose to do,” wrote full-back Adam Drury
Striker Ross McCormack wrote: “Wow… Fair play to @robbierogers for coming out. Must of took great courage!!! Take care mate and stay strong!”
Midfielder Zac Thompson added: “A lot of respect for @robbierogers Good luck in what ever you choose to do next mate. All the best”.
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, told Press Association Sport: “I’m pleased that Robbie’s come out for his own sake. We do have players who’ve said that, while they are gay, they don’t feel comfortable enough to come out.
“It’s not dissimilar to many black players, and we need to create a safe environment for them on and off the field. If there is abuse, that needs to be dealt with by all the football family.
“It’s no bad thing that he’s been brave enough to come out. We know of players who are playing who are gay who’ve not had that confidence as yet. But, as the rest of the world becomes more civilised, hopefully that will come.”