A Twitter user purporting to be a closeted male professional soccer player deleted his account just before he was due to come out.
@FootballerGay claimed to be a player in Britain’s second-tier soccer league and had garnered more than 50,000 followers on Twitter despite only setting up the account earlier this month and many doubting if the account was real or a scam.
He had indicated he would come out publicly Wednesday but posted messages Tuesday saying he had changed his mind. He then deleted his account, though much of it can still be viewed through internet archives.
“I thought I was stronger. I was wrong,” one of the tweets Tuesday read.
It is extremely rare for top-level male soccer players — and male professional athletes in general — to come out publicly. There are currently only three known openly gay professional male soccer players in the world — Collin Martin of the United States, Anton Hysen of Sweden and Andy Brennan of Australia — and there were no openly gay men playing in the 2018 World Cup.
In contrast, women’s athletics has seen an increasing number of openly lesbian athletes in recent years. This year’s Women’s World Cup tournament, for example, featured an estimated 40 out lesbian and bisexual athletes, according to LGBTQ sports site Outsports.
@FootballerGay had said he was under the age of 23, had recently come out to his family and soccer club and had received support from both. He had received thousands of positive messages from other Twitter users, but some questioned his authenticity.
“Gay footballer cancels plan to come out, claiming he isn’t ‘strong enough’. This may be true but he must have known his weakness during the months he has been touting his intention to come out. It smells like a con / hoax. What do you think?” gay activist Peter Tatchell tweeted.
@FootballerGay addressed similar allegations just before deleting his account.
“Call me all the names under the sun, belittle me and ridicule me, a lot will, and I can’t change that, but I’m not strong enough to do this. Just remember that I’ve got feelings, without coming out I can’t convince anybody otherwise, but this isn’t a hoax. I wouldn’t do that.”