Albin Ekdal has slammed homophobia in men’s football and encouraged the game to take cues from their female counterparts on the issue.
There were more openly gay players in the final of the Women’s World Cup than there have been in the history of the men’s game, something Ekdal is keen to see altered.
“It is mine, yours and everyone else’s task to make sure that you don’t need to be brave to come out. It should be simple and fun to tell people that you’re in love,” Ekdal says.
“I can’t do more than welcoming everyone into the world of football. Neither can you,” Ekdal told Aftonbladet.
“But if we do it together, in every stand, on every bus trip, on each away game and in every changing room, then soon we won’t have this problem anymore.
“It should be obvious that gay people should be able to be open with who they are in football. However, there are hardly any [openly] gay people, so we have a problem. And therefore I think it’s about time we change that.
Ekdal referred to his native Sweden and admitted that the same problems existed there as they do across the footballing world, and fears it will harm the game if talented gay players walk away from the sport.
“Just like in Sweden and in the rest of the world there are some people who are a little bit homophobic. That’s how it is everywhere. It feels so obvious that everyone should be able to love whoever they want, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.
“Most people behaved as they should, but the homophobia was still there. Insults such as ‘f****t’ and other things existed. I’m sure they still exist among boys in changing rooms and classrooms. If I would’ve been gay and heard all of that it would’ve made it much harder to come out. I bet it has stuck around today, so even though you don’t mean to hurt anyone it’s important to think about what you say.
“At the end of the day it can lead to many good players quitting. Hopefully there aren’t too many stopping to play because of this, because everyone should obviously be able to play football regardless of who they love. But every person forced to quit is a double loss: primarily for the individual but also for football at large.
“It is everyone’s right to be able to be in love with whoever they want. That’s nothing one should feel a need to hide or feel ashamed of, it should be fun. I really hope that it will get better when it comes to this. It would be great for society if gay men could play football without having to take any sh*t for it. It would be cool to see it too.
“That’s extremely few. Either there are many, many more who don’t want to come out, or they’ve already quit. Both options are equally bad. I hope that there can be a domino effect, that one dares, someone comes after and that in a couple of years it’s completely normal. That’s my hope.”