Story By: Juan Mayes, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Golder’s News And Sport
The first openly gay professional footballer in Argentina has revealed other gay footballers are not coming out “because they are afraid” but says hundreds have written to him since he came out.
Argentine goalkeeper Nicolas Fernandez, 25, made the comments during an exclusive interview with local newspaper ‘Infobae’.
The interview came after Club General Belgrano goalkeeper Fernandez publicly revealed he is openly gay in a social media post last summer saying: “I am happy. Thanks to the people that understand.
“And sorry for the ones that don’t. Gender does not determine anything and speaks even less of who I am as a person. I am in love, and yes, with someone of the same sex.”
The publication surprised people as local media report his statement makes him the first male footballer in an official Argentine league to publicly declare he is gay. He currently plays in the country’s fifth tier.
When speaking with Infobae about the moment he first told he teammates in the changing room at a practice Fernandez said: “Nobody said anything.
“It was like that, absolutely nothing changed with my relationships in the changing room. I told them and it literally stayed inside the changing room.”
When speaking about the impact his statements have made on other players he said: “Amateur footballers from Spain, Peru and the United States have written me telling me that it was a step forward for them and it had helped a lot.
“I started to look at my WhatsApp messages and I had hundreds. I hope it helps whoever is having a hard time. A guy wrote to me from here (Argentina) shortly after he told his family.
“Honestly, he is still getting certain rejection but he saw the report they did on me and thanked me. That makes me very happy.
“That people hear my statements so people understand that you don’t have to answer to anyone, but that is good. If not it’s like you’re carrying a weight around all the time and if you don’t say anything, it ends up hurting your mind.”
Fernandez revealed some of his own experiences and praised the younger generations saying: “I never had a bad experience in the changing room but I also don’t put that much importance on it.
“I train like any player. I have had to play alongside young players and that helps a lot. The younger generations are teaching us a lot of things, they are coming with an open mind.”
He went on to say: “I think footballers don’t say anything because they are afraid of what people may say instead of what it really is; it is also a matter of customs.
“Maybe if they started to say it it would be normal. In a given moment someone will rebel and when they see it as something normal, the rest will copy.
“I am a football player, but I understand that I do not have cameras on me every day at my house like the big professionals.
“The only thing that is missing is for people to say it, that is it and also know how to respond to someone that tells you ‘that is not right’. I am like that but I respect anyone who does not share my opinion.”
General Belgrano are set to make their season debut in the regional league on 8th March. When speaking about how his recent media attention may affect the coming season, Fernadez said: “I think fans will do something as they always have.
“The thing about insults is they are part of football folklore, I take it that way. It doesn’t bother me when they yell ‘faggot’. On the contrary, I turn around and laugh, I take it as a joke.
“I don’t take anything to heart because it is just to bother you and if they actually mean it, then it says more about them than me.”
The 25-year-old goalkeeper ended by saying: “I don’t know if this subject is going to advance very quickly in football for now but it will in the future.
“I simply hope this reaches the homes of people that are closed-minded and don’t accept a son in any circumstance.”
General Belgrano play in the Cultural Pampa Football League which is a regional league in the province of La Pampa in central Argentina and is affiliated with the Argentine Football Federation (AFA).
The club has won nine regional championships making them the third-most successful side in the tournament.