Mario Gomez Interview and Media Reaction
Gay men can’t play football. Football is for the good ole red-blooded heterosexuals of the world. This is the common convention or so we’ve been told by the ignorant but seemingly loud minority whose opinions sadly appear to dominate and overshadow much of the discourse regarding homosexuality and the beautiful game.
Mario Gómez, the 25-year old striker for FC Bayern München, has suggested otherwise. In a recent interview in Bunte Magazine, when faced with the question “why do gay footballers never come out?” Gómez replied, “I would welcome that. They would play like being liberated. By now being gay is no taboo anymore. We have a gay vice-chancellor, the mayor of Berlin is gay. So also football professionals should admit to their preferences.” It’s a novel thought – that gay footballers might be able to play even better if they could be open about their true selves and sexuality, instead of having to keep their secrets so close to the vest, or kit, as it were. It is a notion that completely rejects the assumption that sexuality would or should have any bearing or effect on football skills whatsoever, that the pressure of secrecy would be infinitely more problematic. Mario Gómez, who underwent heavy criticism over the course of his recently ended goal drought, might just understand a thing or two about pressure and perhaps sympathizes.
Gómez’s words were refreshingly open-minded but also unfortunately quite naïve, and were exposed as such. Gómez’s interview with Bunte was extensive and covered a variety of topics but you wouldn’t know it from word of mouth alone. The one quote that the journalists and talking heads just couldn’t let go of was the one regarding homosexuality and football. Not long after the magazine’s release, it seemed like everyone was talking about what Mario Gómez had said and asking others to throw in their own two cents. What should have been merely another interesting facet in a collectively thoughtful interview became a much-bandied about talking point.
There is something innately discouraging about seeing an optimist’s more innocent outlook turn pragmatic and reluctantly realistic, and that appears be what happened when Gómez touched upon the topic a few days later, expressing both surprise at how much his quote had been talked about and concern that he had unknowingly made the situation that much worse for gay footballers. In a press conference aired on television, Gómez responded that he stays with what he said and still thinks that when something is bothering you, you can’t play as well as you could and that the players would feel better if they didn’t have to worry about that [ hiding their sexuality] anymore. However, now after those days, after all the media turmoil, he thinks it’s hard. He thinks that coming out would be very difficult for the players.
It’s an opinion shared by his teammate Philipp Lahm,who has spoken quite a bit on the subject in the past (and was recognized on this site as our Red Card Homophobia Champion for October), and while it is important that such high profile players are treating this issue with the respect and gravitas that it deserves, I found myself wishing that we could return to that moment of optimism. It may have been naïve and short sighted but change can only come when we ourselves believe that it is possible. Maybe we need a little bit of optimism every once in a while.