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"Sometimes the best thing you can do is speak to someone"

30 October 2019
Nobody should feel excluded from football on the basis of their race, religion or sexuality.

FIFPRO therefore supports initiatives that encourage everyone to be themselves, without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

FIFPRO became a partner of Heroes of Football, an initiative to encourage homosexual male footballers to come out supported by high-profile players including Ruud van Nistelrooy and Dries Mertens.

There are few examples of players coming out in men’s football, and so it remains very difficult for homosexual players to talk about their sexuality.

We encourage players to seek help from respected organizations like the John Blankenstein Foundation if they want advice.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is speak to someone, according to Arnold Smit, a former Dutch goalkeeper.

Arnold Smit: A goalkeeper comes out

Arnold Smit was a goalkeeper who played for FC Volendam after being part of the Ajax Academy. For some years he kept his homosexuality a secret from club staff, teammates and even his parents.

When he heard that John Fashanu, the only openly-gay footballer at the time, had committed suicide in 1997, Smit needed someone to turn to for support.

"I went to one of my club’s board members," Smit said. "I asked what would happen if one of our team was also gay?’ He said, ‘Well, either that player should hide it or quit football’. Smit had looked for support and failed to find it. He found himself in a deep, dark place and almost committed suicide, but talked himself out of it.

Arnold Smit 1650

Going public

After leaving the game he told his parents he was gay and began working in an office that provides legal aid, Years later when watching a football show on Dutch television in which the commentators were making jokes about gay players, he was motivated to come out publicly.

“It’s very good just to tell someone you are gay. It’s such a big secret that it eats at you”

— by Arnold Smit, former professional footballer

“All the bad things I imagined would happen, didn’t happen,” Smit said. “In fact, I was contacted by several players; they were relieved to know they were not the only ones.

 “Being gay is still a no-go area in many clubs and that’s what we need to change. The attitude is changing but it’s changing very slowly.”

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