Sportsbuzz: gay rugby players

By admin
18 January 2010

Former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas is the first international rugby player to publicly reveal he’s gay. In a sports world often hostile to gay men is his courage likely to be respected or has he doomed his career?

“His opponents will probably use it against him on the field and make comments to provoke him,” says Gert van der Westhuizen, sports editor of Beeld newspaper. “And you can be sure spectators will also make remarks from the stands. But people should respect him because at least he’s no longer holding up a front as we’ve seen so many other sportsmen do. And he remains a great rugby player.

“There are many more gay rugby players but I doubt Gareth’s revelation will encourage them to come out of the closet. There’s such a macho culture in rugby and people are intolerant.”

And no South African players are likely to follow his example, Van der Westhuizen says. “I think they’d be too afraid. And I don’t know if spectators are adult enough to accept it. I think players would be too afraid to say they are gay and then run onto the field the next Saturday in a stadium filled with 60 000 fans sporting horns on their heads.”

Griquas scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius reckons it was a good move on Thomas’ part. “If he’d kept his secret and someone saw him with another man it would have caused a scandal. People would have been more shocked than they are now.

“But he has put more pressure on himself. It’s war on the field and his opponents will use his sexuality against him. His teammates will also perceive him differently. Rugby players always bait one another and you have to be tough to take it. Sometimes it gets very personal. Gareth will have to be able to laugh.”

Pretorius also feels it’s unlikely any SA players will make a similar revelation. “I doubt there’s a gay SA player. If one were to come out of the closet the guys would reject him and try to work him out of the team. The guys are rough; they wouldn’t make him feel welcome.”

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