The Swedish footballer, Anton Hysen, is currently the only openly gay footballer in the world! Read the full interview here.
Anton Hysen is a 20 year old Swedish footballer who plays for Utsiktens BK. He is the son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysen. Anton came out as gay to the Swedish football magazine Offside in March 2011. He has been described as the "first high-profile Swedish footballer to announce that he is gay" and as the second professional football player to come out, after English footballer Justin Fashanu in 1990. The BBC called him "a global one-off".
Show Racism the Red Card recently interviewed him for a new educational film that tackles the issue of homophobia and homophobic bulling. More information on this film can be found here.
What was the reaction of other people when you came out?
People’s reactions have been fine - positive to be honest. Nobody has said anything bad I just got one letter that’s all. Some of the fans we met at the cup finals said things but other than that it’s been fine everyone’s been really positive, 100%. The media here in Sweden has made comments about it but just very positive. My family as well and my closest friends have been really good actually.
So you’ve had a lot of support for your decision?
Yeah it’s been really good. Players who I really didn’t think would say that stuff have come over to me and said “it’s a really good thing”, “it’s a good thing for the future” and “you’ve made the world a better place to live on” stuff like that. It’s really great.
You mentioned the support from your family, has that been important?
Yeah, I mean the family support is probably the most important stuff that you’ll have. I mean if your friends doesn’t support you, of course your going to get one who is like that, but with your family that’s the most important support you can get from someone. And yeah it’s been really good from them as well. It’s meant a lot and everyone’s been there [for me] so yeah it’s good.
What motivated you to be open about your sexuality?
There wasn’t really a motivation I was just being myself! A magazine had a conversation with my dad and he said to them that his son was gay so then they wanted to do a story about it and they said to me “do you want to do it or not? It’s going to be pretty huge” and I said “well its fine for me, my family knows, my friends know, there’s nothing to hide.”
Did you have any concerns about coming out?
The only thing I was thinking about is if this was going to get huge or was it going to be a small thing. That’s the only thing. I never doubted it, I was just fine, whatever let’s just do it.
And have you been surprised by the reaction?
Yeah, pretty much. I thought it was going to be big in Sweden but like now it’s worldwide I just never ever imagined that. I have friends in the US and they called me and said I was a national hero in the US right now – that is just crazy!
What’s your view on the fact that there are no other gay professional footballers?
I think if you were at the top of your career then maybe that [coming out] can affect you, really, really damage your career and also there are psychological problems there as well . I think they’re just afraid of the supporters, the fans, maybe their teammates, stuff like that. And that might affect their way of living out their career as a footballer player. It’s sad but honestly right now I think it’d be a good time to do it. I don’t think that somebody would rat you out in your team or another professional footballer – you just have to be supportive.
What has been the reaction of your teammates in the dressing room?
We are a very open minded group before but now we’re a really open minded group! We joke about everything. Even earlier than that we’ve always made jokes about stuff. I make jokes about myself and we do jokes about everyone. Stuff about me and my sexuality or him where he comes from, stuff like that. So it’s really open minded, it’s happy and a good team to play in.
In England, if a player came out do you think there would be a negative reaction in the dressing room?
I really don’t know, it depends. Some people come from other cultures and they might not be as accepting as somebody else and honestly I hope and I think they would be smart enough to support him. In 2011 I think they would be smart enough to support him. Not think about it just think about the football season and how the team is together and focus on that really. I don’t know!
German international Mario Gomez has said that if a player came out it would be liberating. Did you think that being honest about your sexuality is liberating?
It depends on what country you’re from and what your culture it is. If you came out in Sweden’s national team I can assure you that it wouldn’t be a problem, here it’s very liberal. But if you were to come out in England’s team then… I think it would be good in England as well. It really depends on where you’re from and how you see things.
And there is also an Irish Hurler, Donal Og Cusack, who is gay and when I interviewed him he said he’d always known that he was gay and it wasn’t a revelation to him or his family. Is that the same with you – you don’t choose your sexuality?
No, no, I’ve always been like that. I didn’t just decide I’m going to like men now! It hasn’t been something I chose; I think that I’ve always been gay.
Did you encounter any homophobia before you came out?
In my life so far…not really. I can’t say that I have.
What would your advice be to someone who was receiving homophobic bullying?
I really don’t know exactly what to say to that because I honestly I always felt like that those who bully and the people who always come up with the negative thoughts – it’s just all about insecurity and being unsure about yourself. I just think that everyone that gets bullied or is unsure of themselves or are afraid about coming out or stuff like that just think about the bullies as being really insecure people that don’t know anything they don’t have any knowledge about it. It’s just stupid they don’t really know what they’re saying. Just teach them and show them that it really doesn’t matter who you are, what you like, what you look like, everyone’s the same – we’re human.
Do you think the reaction of society would be the same today as when Justin Fashanu came out?
There will be people who take it that way that will scream stuff like that but hopefully and honestly I do think that people in the team would react very positively to it and just support. But I think it has changed a little bit I think in a more positive way. Yeah, I think it’s a little bit better. It’s like 2011 now, I think it’s more modern times.
What else do you think football should do to make it a more welcome environment for someone who is lesbian or gay to come out?
What you’re doing right now is a really good thing; the school stuff, teach the young because those are the ones who are going to live in the future. The schools work is a really good deal and the campaigns that teach people that it really doesn’t matter that its just not an issue. Possibly do something in Premier League games like as a team have t-shirts saying that ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ but for homophobia as well – for everything!