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Top-level soccer player comes out of the closet

Uppdaterat onsdag 9 mars 2011 kl 13.58
Publicerat onsdag 9 mars 2011 kl 12.29
"We've been waiting for this for many years"
(5:48 min)
Anton Hysén. Picture from Youtube.

Swedish soccer player Anton Hysén has publicly come out of the closet, making him the country's first openly gay top-level male footballer.

Hysén, who is twenty and plays for the Division Two team Utsikten, came out in an interview with the magazine Offside, which is due out on Thursday. However, by Wednesday morning, the news had already spread on the Internet.

Speaking to the magazine Offside, Hysén said:

"I might not play in the top division, but I want to prove it doesn't have to be such a big thing. I'm a football player. And I'm gay. If I perform well on the pitch, then I don't think it matters if I like guys or girls, so what, you know?"

And the fact that he is part of the Hysén football dynasty, his dad Glenn Hysén was a professional player who played for the national team as well as English side Liverpool and he has two other brothers who are professional players, also adds weight to his openness.

Across the Swedish sports pages today many writers are full of praise that a young player has dared to take the step in world often seen as macho and homophobic. Magnus Erlingmark from the Swedish Football Players association says Hysén has done a good thing for Swedish football.

"I am, and we are, very happy about this", he told Radio Sweden. "We have waited for this for many years. This could open the door for other homosexual male players. I hope there will be no problems at all, I hope we will be treated as everybody else in football. Playing football like he did before he came out."

But while Magnus Erlingmark from the Players Association seems quite hopeful about the reaction Anton Hysén will get, Hysén himself seems to have no illusions.

He told Offside magazine, "I know things are going to be different after this interview. Now everyone is going to know, all the coaches, all the opponents, all my teammates. But It's fine, I think it's going to be exciting. People can say what they want, it will just make me more psyched up".

Anders Öhman is editor at the Swedish gay lifestyle magazine QX, he too is pleased by Hysén's decision.

"I was very happy, and a bit surprised because I didn't know about it", he says, "It's pretty big, because he is the first soccer player to come out at this level. It puts the spotlight on a subject that is very important, gays in sports. This is what we have been waiting for, a good sportsman who comes out of the closet. That's what we need."

There have been several top-level female soccer players open about their sexuality in Sweden, including national "Footballer of the year" Victoria Sandell-Svensson.

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