AntonHysén, the son of former Liverpool defender and Swedish international Glenn Hysén, is currently walking very much alone. This month, the left-sided midfielder came out as Sweden's first openly gay male footballer. He is only the second high-level footballer to come out in the world, ever. The first, Justin Fashanu, revealed he was gay in 1990, found himself shunned by the footballing world, including his brother, John, and hanged himself eight years later.
In one paragraph the reality of declaring oneself to be gay in almost all walks of life is very vividly defined. In some places, people expect you to be gay. Some actors are going to be gay. Some politicians are going to be gay. Some scientists are going to be gay. Some authors are going to be gay. Some of your old classmates are gay. It follows that some footballers are going to be gay. Italy regularly celebrates its footballers who are gay icons (even if most of whom, it can be reasonably assumed, are not gay). In most places in the world it is finally totally acceptable to be homosexual, and Sweden is particularly modern when it comes to this concept. In others you will find quite the opposite situation, and homosexual acts and declarations are punishable offences (we're looking at you especially, Africa and The Middle East).
Yet somewhere as painfully first-world as England cannot seem to get its head around the fact that its sportsmen might be so-inclined. The understood "Home Of Football" should be the standard bearer for equal rights, new policies and openness. The FA scrapped a campaign against anti-homosexuality in the sport, because no footballers would back it publicly. Is this the fault of the Football Association for failing to provide strong support for (statistically) probably 10% of its employees? Or maybe the government for lacking any initiative on the matter? Or perhaps the parents for telling their kids it's not alright, forever inserting a knife of fear in the back of a child that can never be removed? If, as the article suggested, the son of tough-tackling, leg-over, affair-guzzling England International and Chelsea Captain John Terry came out in the future, the country would herald it as the greatest tragedy since Diana crashed. The Royal Wedding would be cancelled. Remembrance Day would be forgot. Why, exactly? Why indeed.
There are still gay-beatings and there will be for quite some time in the future, but can anyone who would like to consider themselves morally decent actually stand by the perpetrators of such a crime? Hating a person because of who they are and not what they do? These folk are not uncommon, but are to be found in the deepest trough of humanity's failures. They are grossly outnumbered by the millions who, for better or worse, could not give a damn whether you like men or women. There's already a "Kick Racism Out Of Football" campaign that has been slowly working its way to success for almost two decades. Why not amend it to "Kick Discrimination Out Of Football"? If FIFA is bringing the World Cup to Russia and Qatar in order to impact the issues of race and sexuality directly, and bring some compassion to the regions, then it's a gambit that I hope pays off. There's no other sensible reason to have the biggest event in the World there. But that's another post for another day.
We should live in a world where Anton Hysén is not getting any more praise for coming out than your non-famous gay mate for when s/he did. Even better, it should be a non-event. In case anyone can't tap into the empathy required to see the total wrongness of the intolerance active here, copy this post into a word processor, press Ctrl + H and swap every instance of the words 'gay' and 'black' and try and convince yourself that it reads better. The world adores Didier Drogba for being an awesome footballer. For being a peacemaker. Not for him being both a footballer and black. That's just part of who he is.