…At Anti-LGBT Russia, Qatar World Cups
“By being there, it is more of a statement than boycotting.”
The world’s only gay professional footballer doesn’t plan on hiding who he is at the next two World Cups.
LA Galaxy fullback Robbie Rogers told The Mirror in an interview published on Thursday that should he be called up to the U.S. men’s national team for the 2018 World Cup in Russia or the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he wouldn’t boycott either tournament in protest of the host nation’s homophobia.
“If I were to go to Russia or Qatar then I would do it and I would be extremely flamboyant about it,” said Rogers.
He continued, “I think what I’ve learned from my experience of coming out and being present in the locker room is that by being there, it is more of a statement than boycotting or something like that.”
Rogers, who became the world’s first openly gay pro soccer player in 2013 when he came out in a surprise open letter posted on his blog, has witnessed first-hand how simply being himself has shifted the reception toward homosexuality around the league.
“It’s very much changing in the MLS — I have friends in every team and they tell me how things have changed, the sensitivity to using certain words and stuff like that,” Rogers told The Mirror.
However, Rogers said there still is room for progress abroad, noting that there aren’t “really any out footballers around Europe or South America.”
He said Russia and Qatar “are extremely homophobic.” Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, while Russia has also outlawed “homosexual propaganda.”
The lack of openly gay additional male soccer players around the world has caused theoppressive anti-LGBT political and cultural stances of Russia and Qatar to become tertiary issues to FIFA, which is already accused of corruption surrounding Russia and Qatar’s World Cup bids.
For Qatar’s part, the country has promised to find a “creative” solution to accommodating LGBT fans and players, but has preposterously lumped the problem into their additional question of how to serve alcohol, which is also illegal in Qatar, at the games.
Rogers has been critical of each country before. In January, he told Sky Sports that both World Cups were “insane,” saying, “If you look at the next few World Cups, they are in places where, if I were to go, I would possibly be imprisoned or beat up.”
It’s a threat that outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter has completely failed to address, other than joking in 2010 that gay players and fans should “refrain from any sexual activities” during 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Rogers’ World Cup hypothetical could be more than just that. Although he last capped for the USMNT in 2011, recent conversations suggest Rogers, who has since switched from forward to fullback, may have another shot for a call-up following success in the MLS.
At the Galaxy’s first-ever Pride Night last month, in a powerful moment, Rogers scored his first goal since coming out and joining the team in 2013.
Hopefully for Rogers, it’ll be the first goal of many more in LA, and perhaps one day, in Russia or Qatar as a member of the U.S. men’s national team.