‘Gay and proud’ – SA footballer comes out of the closet

South African footballer Phuthi Lekoloane has challenged gay footballers to come out of the closet to help break the stigma attached to homosexuality in sport.

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Lekoloane becomes the first male South African football player to come out openly and declare himself as gay.

footballer Phuthi Lekoloane during training.
(Image: BBC)

The 22-year-old goalkeeper, who has been to a number of NFD clubs for trials without success, has revealed that he is not ready to give up on his career despite regularly being judged for being homosexual in a heterosexual sport.

“I have been trying out at a number of clubs in the NFD in different provinces but I guess my sexuality has been a problem not only to the players but to those running the clubs as well,” Lekoloane told KickOff.com.

Lekoloane, who looks up to AmaZulu keeper Moeneeb Josephs for his fiery character, says that he is not ready to hide his sexuality to be accommodated in the football fraternity.

“I believe I was never in the closet but there was a time in my life where I went into hiding of who I was just to fit into the space I found myself in,” he reveals.

“I was not performing after some time of hiding my sexuality and I received feedback that I lost my spark, which was true. I came out a gay man the next day and I never looked back.”

The budding soccer star is also a founder of the LGBTIQ Legacy Games where homosexual players meet to play football without facing discrimination.

Phuthi Lekoloane. (Image: KickOff/website)

“I run my own foundation, Phuti Lekoloane Foundation. The main objective of the foundation is to provide development and training for the LGBTIQ community, empower, fight poverty, homophobia and substance abuse,” says Lekoloane.

“I funded the LGBTIQ Legacy Games to create a platform where we can share conversations around the issues affecting gay or bisexual footballers and give them a platform where they can express themselves without fear of being discriminated against.”

“Regardless of intent, homophobic slurs threaten the safety of gay footballers and fans. Footballers have an opportunity to champion equality if we all come out bravely and stop being apologetic about who we are,” he declares.

“The more we come out, the easier it becomes to have gay footballers championing in the elite league. So I urge the gay and bisexual footballers to come out for equality.”