Robbie Rogers: why coming out as gay meant I had to leave football

In February the former Leeds winger revealed his sexuality, then walked away from the game. In his first interview since that decision, he explains his anger, and his hopes for the future

It would be incredibly powerful if a gay footballer could face down that hate and abuse – just as black sportsmen like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali stood up to racism in America.

“Sure,” Rogers says. “I’ve thought about that. I might be strong enough but I don’t know if that’s really what I want. I’d just want to be a footballer. I wouldn’t want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you’re gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: ‘So you’re taking showers with guys – how’s that?’

"If you’re playing well it will be reported as: 'The gay footballer is playing well.’ And if you have a bad game it’ll be: 'Aw, that gay dude … he’s struggling because he’s gay.’ Fuck it. I don’t want to mess with that.”

Yet the response to his coming out seems to have been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s been very warm, very accepting. Guys I played with have sent messages saying, 'You know I was joking when I said that?’ I say, 'Bro, don’t worry about it. You were hilarious. Don’t worry.’”

He becomes thoughtful when asked if he knows any gay footballers. “No. Even now, one of my best friends said: 'Do we know anyone else in football who could possibly be gay?’ And we couldn’t think of anyone. We’re such great actors because we’re afraid to let people know who we are. We’ve been trained by our agents how to do interviews, how to present ourselves. No footballer has since said to me, 'Robbie, thank you, I’m gay too…’ I don’t know if anyone will.”