Swedish footballer comes out as gay10 March 2011

Anton Hysen, the son of former Liverpool FC defender Glenn Hysen, has become the only openly gay professional footballer in Europe.

The 20-year-old, who plays in the Swedish second division for Utsiktens BK, coached by his father Glenn, comes from a footballing family with his older brothers Tobias and Alexander also both playing professionally.

Hysen revealed that he came out to try and show that being a gay footballer should no longer be an issue.

“I might not play in the top league, but I want to prove that there is no big deal if I'm a footballer and also gay,” he told Swedish football magazine, Offside. “If I perform as a footballer, then I do not think it matters if I like men or women.”

‘Intolerance is their problem’
Hysen says that some people might have a problem with his decision but that it is their problem and not his.

“There will always be people who can't tolerate gay people, just like there are people who can't tolerate immigrants. A club might be interested in me and then the coach might change his mind if he finds out I'm gay, but that is his problem not mine.”

Hysen’s revelation follows a growing number of other high profile professional athletes who have recently come out publicly.

Other athletes also out
Two weeks ago cricketer Steven Davies publicly revealed what his fellow England players already knew ; Irish hurler Dónal Óg Cusack came out in 2010, and Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas declared himself gay at the end of 2009.

If proof were needed about the value of the human stories behind the public openness, Thomas is soon to have a Hollywood film made about his life starring Mickey Rourke.

Hysen commented on the lack of other openly gay footballers, “It's totally sick when you think about it, where the hell is everyone else?”

Hysen's brother Tobias, a Swedish international with 15 caps, backed his brother's decision, “Hopefully more people will have the courage to come out now after his brave decision.”

Growing campaigns
Hysen’s decision comes a few weeks after the only previously openly gay professional footballer Justin Fashanu, would have celebrated his 50th birthday. An anniversary that is now marked by UK group the Justin Campaign through their Football v Homophobia initiative .

National and international campaigns are growing with established groups such as Paris Foot Gay in France, a number of gay fans clubs in Germany, and initiatives such as the recognition by Barcelona FC of la Penya Blaugrana de Gais i Lesbianes as an official fan club in 2009.

Last weekend the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation (EGLSF), a FARE partner for many years, agreed at their annual Congress to employ a development officer for the first time. The officer will be employed in Eastern Europe from funding partly provided by the FARE network.