Football

Marcus Urban's battle with homophobia in football

Updated 7:12 AM ET, Tue May 14, 2013
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Marcus Urban was an East German football player who turned his back on the sport in order to live as an openly gay man. Urban told his story in the book "Versteckspieler: Die Geschichte des schwulen Fußballers Marcus Urban", "Hidden Player: the story of the gay footballer Marcus Urban". Marcus Urban
Urban, pictured on the far left, began his career in 1978 when he joined East German club Motor Weimar at the age of seven. He moved to Rot-Weiss Erfurt in 1984, where he won a youth championship. Marcus Urban
The midfielder's reputation was growing and he was called up to the East German youth team in 1986. He made over 100 appearances for Rot-Weiss' first team, but Urban felt burdened by his sexuality. "Constantly hearing gay used as a curse word like s**t, made me think, 'Of course, I'm s**t," Urban told CNN. Marcus Urban
Urban's form suffered and, following a stint with provincial club SC 1903 Weimar, he gave up on his dream of becoming a professional footballer. "I realized that if I became a professional footballer, I would suffer as a man," he explained. "I chose freedom over a constructed prison." Marcus Urban
Since "coming out" Urban has been able to reignite his love for the beautiful game. He now consults with organizations, including football associations, on issues of diversity and integration. "There are certainly more boring lives than mine," he said. Marcus Urban
Former United States international Robbie Rogers attracted headlines by announcing himself as gay after retiring for football, aged just 25, earlier this year. Rogers was recently invited to train with Major League Soccer champions Los Angeles Galaxy. Jamie Sabau/Getty Images/file
Jason Collins, currently a free agent, made NBA history last month by becoming the first male athlete in a major North American sport to come out as gay. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/file
Urban believes rugby player Gareth Thomas set the perfect example for athletes wishing to "come out". "He proceeded in stages," Urban said of the Welshman who publicly revealed his sexuality in 2009. "First he outed himself to his wife. Then he told his coach and then two players. After each step he received positive feedback." Shaun Botterill/Getty Images