A US international soccer star who played for Leeds United has announced that he is gay and quitting football at the age of 25.
Robbie Rogers, 25, from California, disclosed his sexuality and his reasons for retiring from football in a heartfelt blog post.
The winger, who made 18 appearances for the US national team, scoring two goals, joined Leeds United from the Major League Soccer team Columbus Crew in 2011. But his career at the club was blighted by injury and he was released by mutual consent last month.
In a blog titled The Next Chapter, Rogers wrote: “Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.”
Rogers, who also played for Stevenage, continued: “I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career.”
“Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football. It’s 1 A.M. in London as I write this and I could not be happier with my decision. Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. Honesty is a bitch but makes life so simple and clear. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.”
Rogers, who tweeted a link to his blog with the message “Just getting some sh*t off my chest”, was immediately praised for his courage. But his retirement means there is still no openly gay professional footballer playing in the Premiership or Football League.
Justin Fashanu, the former Norwich City player who disclosed his sexuality towards the end of his career, remains the first and only openly homosexual footballer to have played in the UK despite FA campaigns to stamp out homophobia.
Since leaving Leeds, Rogers has begun to pursue a career in the media. This week, he tweeted: “First day gaining work experience @MensHealthMag in London. Hopefully goes better than my debut at Leeds. #needahelmet”
In his blog, Rogers wrote: “Things are never what they seem… My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers, even different from my family. In today’s society being different makes you brave. To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith in your purpose.
“For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams.”
He wrote about the life he is now giving up. “Dreams of going to a World Cup, dreams of The Olympics, dreams of making my family proud. What would life be without these dreams? Could I live a life without them?
“Life is only complete when your loved ones know you. When they know your true feelings, when they know who and how you love. Life is simple when your secret is gone. Gone is the pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret."