Last night Robbie Keane hit a hat trick in a 4-0 win for LA Galaxy against Seattle Sounders at the Home Depot Center. Last night was also the first time in 20-odd years that football has had a high-profile openly gay participant.
It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog, the last few months I’ve been working on Bloggin’ The Blues, but my last post was back in January in which I talked about the subject of Homosexuality in Football. Little did I know that a month later an international footballer would announce he was gay. He simultaneously quit the game, but a couple of days ago a different Robbie, Robbie Rogers came out for the second time, this time out of retirement and last night took to the football pitch once again as a 77th minute substitute for his local side.
I remember reading about Rogers’ coming out post on his blog and feeling a number of different emotions. I was delighted that a well-known player had the balls to finally do it, but I was also saddened that he decided to quit the game at the same time. To me it was a case of two steps forward, one step back. It was fantastic for the sport that he had chosen to open up, but retiring suggested he felt he couldn’t be gay and play football.
But last night he did. His U-turn was something I predicted, perhaps not this soon, but I always knew after the support he has received and the years in the game beforehand he couldn’t stay away forever.
Rogers received an incredible reception from the home support last night, and I can’t imagine he’ll receive any different elsewhere. A California boy, it made sense for Rogers to return home to his local club. In interviews since he came out, he said a return to football would be in the MLS, and Chicago Fire, who owned his rights were happy to allow Rogers the move to Galaxy.
It shouldn’t be, I know, but Rogers’ return to football is a big thing, both for society and for the sport. There is a long way to go, and last night was just 13 minutes of a possible 10 years he has left in the game, but progress has been made. Personally he has realised that he still loves the game and that his sexuality isn’t enough to stop him playing, and in terms of everyone else, his team mates and supporters both in the US and worldwide have all accepted him and treat him no different. Galaxy skipper Landon Donovan has spoken of how Rogers inclusion with the squad in training was a huge benefit for the team. That step back I mentioned is most definitely being reversed.
Only time will tell how the midfielder’s return to the game will impact on both himself and the sport. He’s an established player who has represented his country at the Olympic Games and is an MLS Cup winner and is the first openly gay player to play in one of North America’s ‘big 5’ sporting leagues. I’ve seen nothing but praise and support for Rogers and long may that continue now he’s back playing.
I hope Rogers enjoys a successful career back in America. I hope both he and the support he has received from all over the world can and has inspired people, his fellow professionals who have felt they couldn’t come out; gay fans who have never felt accepted or represented within the sport and the LGBT community in general. There’s simply no place for homophobia in today’s society in general, never mind in football.