Difficult to stand out as gay – VG

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CAN HELP: Judge Tom Harald Hagen (left) has chosen to share publicly that he is gay. Christian Gauseth (in the middle) is helped to his feet by teammate Sondre Solholm Johansen during a match against Mjøndalen’s favorite opponent Brann last year. Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB

Almost half of the country’s elite league players are demanding to be promoted as gay in their own profession.

It emerges from a survey conducted by the Norwegian Athletes’ Central Organization (NISO) and VG, conducted in the period February / March this year. There were three questions related to homosexuality and Norwegian top football, and one of them was “In your opinion, is it difficult to stand out as gay in the football community?”.

48.6 percent answered yes.

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At the same time, all of the respondents state that they would either look at it as positive or be indifferent to having a gay player on the team. 109 players responded to the survey. According to the player registration database FIKS, there are 385 players affiliated with Norwegian elite league clubs, so close to a third of those active in the country’s top division have responded.

And the majority of these state a kind of “mismatch” between the answers: They would take it positively to have a gay player on the team, at the same time as they see the burden of telling about the outward orientation.

That was what top judge Tom Harald Hagen did this week. Mjøndalen captain Christian Gauseth (36) launches the following explanation of why it is seen as demanding for the players:

– It does not depend on how it is perceived internally. Nobody experiences it as a problem, says Gauseth.

But the Mjøndalen captain believes that placing oneself voluntarily in a shop window, on top of all the other profiling one experiences as a football player, is the reason why colleagues indicate in the survey that it is perceived as difficult.

– Externally, you want to make yourself a target for idiots who want to know how sinful it is to be gay. As a football player, you already get a lot of criticism. The coach looks at you every day, everything you do is analyzed, you get stock market grades, it is written about you, you are investigated.

– You get a lot of attention, both positive and negative, but if you make a mistake, the “mob” is there right away. Being gay is not to be mistaken, but then enough idiots will turn to you, says Gauseth.

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Former U-national team player Thomas Berling has shared his story, including with VG in 2015. 15 years earlier he went from Nardo to Lyn at a time when the Oslo team played in the Obosligaen and announced the position within the club.

Berling left a week later. He is still the only top football player in Norway who has stood out, but it became known to the public only six months after he left. Then he was no longer a top football player.

To VG’s survey and figures, Thomas Berling says the following today:

– I think the reason they think What will be difficult is how they will experience media and expectations from players, teams and coaches, and how they think people will respond. I do not think there is a problem. But the person will get a very media boost, even if it is positive, reports Berling, who praises Judge Tom Harald Hagen’s openness and Flamur Kastratis’ move to become an ambassador.

– I think that was perfect timing. He has been open to those closest to him, but that he takes it publicly is very positive. For football and for young people, who see the reactions in retrospect, Thomas Berling believes.

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Joachim Walltin, longtime NISO leader, but from this summer general secretary of FIFPro, the international football players’ organization, believes this is the reason why it is difficult to stand out in football:

– The explanation is probably the mechanisms. The pressure, the attention, and that confirms the reaction of Tom Harald Hagen. He said it was violent but positive. We had a young, male handball player who came forward many years ago, and he was not prepared for the pressure, Walltin says.

Neither as a top player for Vålerenga, Brann and Tromsø nor as a national team leader for ten years did Walltin get to know gays in the football profession.

– No one has said anything to me about it, and I have never heard from others. The way I know the environment, I do not think anyone would have been without wanting to stand out inside. Then it is probably rather the case that they have fallen out along the way. I do not think there are many top players “in the closet”. Men’s sports have probably lost many players, unfortunately, Walltin thinks.

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Erlend Hanstveit (39), Walltin’s successor as NISO leader, lived a long life in top football until he resigned in 2015. He believes football has moved in the right direction, even though it is a long way off.

– It is not to be underestimated that there have been challenges with the topic. The fact that “gay” has been an insult, if you go back in time. That someone has dropped out because they have not felt welcome in football, is then just sad. That is why we must cheer very much on those who lead. Like Tom Harald Hagen, says Hanstveit.

Branns league champion back from 2007 won over 300 matches for Bergen’s pride and had stays abroad in both Belgium and Sweden. When asked by VG whether during his career or later he has become acquainted with gay top players, he answers the same 97 percent have done in the survey: No.

– I think many can be helped by Tom Harald Hagen. It will happen at some point, and I think we are getting closer, says Joachim Walltin.

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