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'Football not ready for gay players'

ESPN staff
August 1, 2013

German Football League (DFL) president Reinhard Rauball has told Sport Bild he does not believe football is ready for gay players to come out.

Rauball was speaking a fortnight after four Bundesliga clubs, along with lower division clubs and politicians, signed the Berlin Declaration against homophobia in football.

The document is accompanied by a guide called Football and Homosexuality, released by the German FA (DFB), which will be sent to all clubs and county football associations.

The DFL, along with 14 Bundesliga clubs, has not signed the Berlin Declaration and, in his interview with Sport Bild - the media partner of the declaration - Rauball, 66, said: "With a good conscience, at this time I would not be able to advise footballers to come out in public.

"To advise a player to make this step - football is not ready yet. There is still a lot of work to do. That's disgraceful but, despite all the good talk, this is my 100% belief."

Rauball cited the example of Jason Collins, the only NBA basketball professional to have come out so far.

"Ever since then, he has not found a club," he said. "If I advised a 25-year old footballer to do it [come out], the danger is that his career might as well be over.

"There will certainly be not a problem between the players themselves or the club officials and the player. But that, during away games, the player gets the acceptance he deserves… I cannot guarantee that."

Rauball's comments were criticised by Berlin paper Der Tagesspiegel, which said: "The time for a coming out in men's football has not come, Rauball believes.

"But who else, other than a high-ranking official, could bring about a change of eras? Who else could make sure everything is set for young men, who fear for their careers, to end the hiding? Sadly, Reinhard Rauball missed that chance."

Anton Hysen, the son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysen,and ex-Leeds United player Robbie Rogers, now at LA Galaxy, have both come out as gay in the recent past.

Asked when he believed a top-flight player in the UK might come out, Rogers said: "I have no clue when someone will feel they can do that. I hope soon."

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