A Twitter account started this month has racked up over 40,000 followers after claiming to be run by a closeted soccer player in the UK. “I’m a professional footballer, playing for a club in the Sky Bet Champ,” they wrote in their first tweet on July 5. “I will be revealing my identity soon but I am a proud gay man, hoping to break the mould. I am under the age of 23, and today I came out to my family. Soon, I will come out publicly.” Now, after having spoken to his whole club, the account has set the date for that coming out to Wednesday, July 24.
In follow-up tweets, the account specified that the creator had met with his manager and club chairman to disclose his sexuality and that they were supportive. “I asked questions regarding my place in the first team squad for this upcoming season, and my involvement in pre-season training and friendly matches, I have been given full assurance that none of those will be in any way impacted by what I have disclosed privately to them, or the forthcoming public announcement,” he wrote in a statement. According to the statement, the public coming out would happen after the entire club was told and would be done via a press conference with local and national press.
Of his 11 tweets so far, the alleged player has used one to respond directly to a detractor.
“Have you thought this through?” someone tweeted. “Your peers won’t have an issue with you and will accept you 100%. Rival fans will torment you because THATS what they do. You will have to be strong enough to deal with the abuse. Keep your personal life Private.”
The account responded with a quote tweet. “Would you say the same to a heterosexual?” he said. “The whole point is I shouldn’t have to keep it private. I should, and will, be able to be as open about my personal life as anybody else.”
If a player indeed comes out as a result of all of this, his story will make him the second active major soccer player in the UK to come out. Justin Fashanu was the first in 1990 to much public derision.
The approach seems unprecedented. To start an anonymous account to tease a coming out story, presumably run by the person coming out. Some have labeled it sensationalist and wrong, and a ploy for sponsorship. The account has said that if anyone wants to pay him for an interview he would donate the money to organizations like LGBT Foundation, Stonewall UK, and others. And though it seems unlikely at this point, it could truly just all be an elaborate prank. But he has written he’s doing this to help others.
“I am thinking of those involved in professional football who are similarly positioned,” he wrote. “My hope is that they can take comfort and hope from such disclosure and can feel suitably empowered to, if desirable, reach the same decision.”