The Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema believes it may take an elite men’s player to come out as gay for football to accept homosexuality. While several current top female players are openly gay, there has still yet to be a high-profile equivalent among their male counterparts.
Megan Rapinoe, a World Cup winner with the United States who was named Ballon d’Or Feminin winner in 2019, is an LGBTQ+ activist and Miedema – the current PFA Women’s Player of the Year – is in a relationship with Arsenal team-mate Lisa Evans. But, while the likes of former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger announced he was gay following his retirement, the Premier League is still yet to see an active player do so.
With a number of homophobic-related charges at football stadiums recently, tackling the issue remains a challenge for the Football Association and Miedema feels having a prominent gay male footballer would help change perceptions. “Obviously I like to think so,” the Netherlands international said when asked if a top men’s player coming out would help others and make homosexuality less of a stigma within the game.
“If someone was to come out and that player is fully respected, from there on it would be easy for a lot of other boys to come out as well. I think you should do what you want and let people do whatever they feel good with.”
The FA has both a 21-page document and a 10-point plan laying out how it is challenging homophobia and supporting gay players, while campaigns such as Rainbow Laces has increased wider awareness of the issue. “At the time right now I think we are too busy thinking about everybody else but ourselves and I think we need to focus on ourselves,” added Miedema.
“Why does it change the player if he is gay or not? Why does it change the player if he or she is from Holland, from Africa, from Australia? We are all the same so why can’t we just accept how we are and who we are and go from there. Just enjoy football and enjoy life, that is how easy it is for me anyway.”
The rise of social media platforms has presented the chance for racial and homophobic abuse of footballers to be both targeted and anonymous. But Miedema, 23, has called for team rivalries to be the only factor in separating fans. “I don’t like social media anyway so I would always say, no matter what happens, social media is going to be a place that always makes it worse,” she added.
“For me personally, I don’t get why it is still an issue, especially in football because we all share the same passion. We are all the same. You all have the same passion, you all want to play football. Obviously there is always going be a rivalry, between Chelsea and Arsenal for example, but in the end you have all got the same goal so for me it doesn’t matter who is on the pitch and who you support. I think we should be smart and clever enough to keep it friendly, know where the line is and not cross that line.”