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Andy Brennan: Football needs openly gay role models, says Australian trailblazer

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Football needs an openly gay player at the highest level of the game, according to Andy Brennan.

The 26-year-old was the first Australian in the sport to come out when he published a social media post in May.

By his own admission, the reaction to his announcement has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’.

And Brennan, currently playing in the NPL Victoria League, believes the game needs a role-model at the elite level.

“Obviously if a footballer came out, you could just see if we could get to a stage where people were comfortable,” he told Yahoo Sport UK. “If over the next five to 10 years you see a couple coming out at the professional level, it would just be amazing to see.

“It’d make a huge, huge difference for so many younger players coming through who are just going to experience the same thing. At some point there’s got to be people out there that just think ‘look, this isn’t just for me, it is for so many young people’.

“My news for instance has been so big, not just for myself or people in Victoria, or in Australia, it is people all around the world I’ve received messages from.

“You just think, the amount of people that need that kind of news and need those people to look up to, it could just be so powerful for so many people.”

HOBART, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 05:  Andy Brennan (R) of South Hobart controls the ball during the FFA Cup match between South Hobart and Tuggeranong at KGV Park on August 5, 2014 in Hobart, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
The forward (R) hopes his experience can encourage others (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

The Premier League currently has no openly gay players. The first English professional footballer to come out during his career was Justin Fashanu, who did so in an interview in October 1990.

Fashanu, who became Britain’s first £1 million when he moved from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest in 1981, took his own life in 1998 following allegations of sexual assault in the US which he denied in a note found following his death.

While there were no openly gay or bisexual players at the men’s World Cup in 2018, this year’s Women’s World Cup featured 41 gay or bi-sexual players and coaches.

Although Brennan believes the numbers in the women’s tournament would be similarly reflected in the men’s game, he thinks it needs one well-known player to open the floodgates.

The Hobart-born forward said: “Obviously there’s no-one else out that you can really look to and talk to. There’s not like two or three in the team and it is ‘normal’.

“There is literally no-one and I have never played with anyone who is, it’s completely not talked about.

“On the surface, people throw these homophobic comments and it makes you worry about it, it makes you scared about it, that they wouldn’t accept it.

“I’ve heard so many homophobic comments in the past, playing with players that I’ve now talked to since and they couldn’t be happier for me.

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“Now you can just see that they just didn’t understand what they were saying. They don’t understand how much of an impact it can have on someone, because it’s not impactful on them.”

Brennan, who spent two years with A-League side Newcastle Jets, made the decision to come out publicly after telling family and friends.

His decision to make a public announcement enabled him to maintain a degree of control.

“I’d obviously told everyone that I cared about but the one thing I didn’t really like was the thought that from that, people start to talk,” added the Green Gully player.

“From there I knew everything would get out eventually if I had just left it. I didn’t want people telling my story to other people that I don’t know or don’t really know that well.

“I just felt for me to be most comfortable, I just want to put it out there and say it and show it and then from there just be able to move on and forget about it and live my life.

“It just got to the point where I want to be completely open, completely honest and I can just go off and be who I am. People can either like it or dislike it, whatever. I didn’t really care.”

Brennan’s comments follow the creation and subsequent deletion of the @FootballerGay Twitter account.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 09: Daniel Clark of Hume City is chased by Andy Brennan of Bentleigh Greens during the FFA Cup round of 32 match between Hume City FC and Bentleigh Greens at John Iilhan Memorial Reserve on August 9, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Andy Brennan (R) is Australia's first openly gay professional footballer, and believes his announcement has made him a more confident player (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The user, claiming to be a gay Championship footballer, was due to reveal themselves before making a u-turn a posting the words: “I thought I was stronger, I was wrong.”

While it will never be known whether or not the account was genuine, Brennan can empathise with anyone feeling the anxieties it expressed.

But he insists his experience has been a positive one.

He added: “There were so many things that I was worried about, scared of, and now looking back I was like ‘why did I waste so much time thinking about that?’

“It is so much time wasted because the fears were not relevant at all. For me, at least, it has been great.

“Anyone who belittles anyone who is that public - the person screaming the abusive things is the one going to be in the minority in the end.”

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