I'm gay and I'm proud – Lekoloane
01 April 2020 | Sports
Phuti Lekoloane is credited as the first male South African football player to come out openly about his sexuality and declare himself as gay.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper has been to a number of National First Division (NFD) clubs for trials without success, but is not ready to give up on his career despite regularly being judged for being homosexual.
"I have been trying out at a number of clubs in the NFD in different provinces, but I guess my sexuality has been a problem not only to the players but to those running the clubs as well," Lekoloane said.
Besides being side-lined and judged, Lekoloane, who models his game around AmaZulu keeper Moeneeb Josephs for his fiery character, is unwilling to hide his sexuality to be accommodated in the football fraternity.
"I believe I was never in the closet but there was a time in my life where I went into hiding of who I was just to fit into the space I found myself in," he revealed.
"I was not performing after some time of hiding my sexuality and I received feedback that I lost my spark, which was true. I came out a gay man the next day and I never looked back."
The soccer star is also a founder of the LGBTQI Legacy Games where gay players meet to play football without facing discrimination.
"I run my own foundation, the Phuti Lekoloane Foundation. The main objective of the foundation is to provide development and training for the LGBTQI community; empower, fight poverty, homophobia and substance abuse," Lekoloane said.
"I funded the legacy games to create a platform where we can share conversations around the issues affecting gay or bisexual footballers and give them a platform where they can express themselves without fear of being discriminated against."
Lekoloane encourages gay people to come out of the closet and express themselves through the sport they love.
"Regardless of intent, homophobic slurs threaten the safety of gay footballers and fans. Footballers have an opportunity to champion equality if we all come out bravely and stop being apologetic about who we are," he declared.
"The more we come out, the easier it becomes to have gay footballers championing in the elite league. So, I urge the gay and bisexual footballers to come out for equality."