After football player Jake Williamson came out as gay, his teammates ostracized him and he was eventually kicked off the team. He was angry and sad and now decides to come out with his story to encourage younger generations of football players.
Jake Williamson started playing professional football at the age of sixteen. He initially played for a Polish team as an exchange student, after which he wanted to work as a personal trainer at a fitness club in Chicago.
Due to covid, those plans fell through. Williamson got into a relationship when he was 21 years old and he decided to tell them that he is gay. He then moved to Birmingham, where he played in the Sunday Football League. On BBC’s Sports Podcast, he decided to openly admit that he has a boyfriend, only for his teammates to express their disapproval.
“For the first time in my life, I was confronted with homophobia,” Williamson says. “I was completely left out.” It still makes him angry and sad. “It is bad enough that we feel bad in the society we live in. So isn’t it nice that your own football team shuts you out. I continued to play football, but something in me said that I should do something with this.”
Although Williamson was eager to continue playing, he was eventually kicked out of the team. Since this year he has been working as a sports ambassador for the LGBTQ organization Stonewall, to help others with his story. “I’m not special, but I want to make my voice heard and show the difficulties people like me face.”
Williamson already sees the impact of his story. “The number of messages I’ve received and the number of people who responded to Q&As via Instagram shows that I can make a difference.”
According to Williamson, a big part of the problem is the lack of representation in football. “I played football for twenty years and I still have to meet the first professional football player who is gay. I find that absolutely amazing.”
Another part of the problem is the often toxic behavior of football fans. “It’s hard to say you’re gay. For many fans, that’s something they don’t know. Or they see it as a sign of weakness.”
Homosexuality has always remained invisible even within the top clubs, says Williamson. “Players at top clubs have all had the same training, in an environment where homosexuality was not open. That’s not part of their system. If anyone comes out at all, it is after they have retired from professional football.”
Williamson wants to make it self-evident for future generations that you can just be yourself. “That you can play football without carrying that burden on your shoulders. I myself only accepted who I am after I stopped playing football. I want to prepare the way for the next generation to make it easier.”
Translated with deepl.com from www.winq.nl