'You couldn't cry' – Footballers don't have to be alpha males, says Bellerin

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Issues such as sexuality and mental health have been brought to the fore in recent years and the full-back feels things have changed for the better

Arsenal's Hector Bellerin has said that footballers 'don't have to be alpha males' as the game continues to evolve with the times, and highlighted the fact that earning a big salary does not necessarily mean professionals are happy behind the scenes.

Bellerin, an avid fan of fashion and unafraid to admit as much, was referencing the long-held notion that football is a “man's sport”, with notoriously controversial figures such as Vinny Jones and Kevin Muscat making up just part of a list of names that suggests there is no room for softness in the game.

Football is slowly changing, however, with players such as Burnley's Aaron Lennon and Tottenham's Danny Rose having discussed mental health issues in recent times, while United States women's national team star Megan Rapinoe is a figurehead for raising LGBT+ awareness.

But while openly gay individuals are still few and far between in the men's game, Bellerin does feel that a sport generally so heavily associated with masculinity is coming around to the notion of being more open with emotions and opinions.

“Footballers still feel scared because the sport is associated with maleness,” Bellerin told the Guardian. “But you don't have to be an alpha male just because you're a footballer. 

“Aaron Lennon talked about his depression and someone asked how he could be depressed when he was earning so much money. You can been incredibly isolated as a footballer. If your family lives elsewhere, then you are going home to an empty house.

“Until recently, footballers had to pretend that depression or loneliness weren't issues. You couldn't cry.”

Arsenal themselves can be credited with helping football evolve, with the appointment of then little-known Arsene Wenger back in 1996 sparking public debate as to whether a foreign manager could cut it in the Premier League.

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Indeed, Wenger's novel ideas about players' diets was just one of the many things that came into question, but a tactical revolution, an unbeaten season and several pieces of silverware later the Frenchman left the club a legend.

“All that stuff about foreign players ruining the beautiful game is pure racism,” Bellerin said. “I used to love Thierry [Henry] and I've always loved the kits because I used to play as Arsenal on the PlayStation. So, when I signed for them I already had a connection.

“I don't hate Tottenham because they told me to hate them. I hate them because I love Arsenal.”

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