Gay footballers welcome Czech player Jakub Jankto with open arms after game-changing coming out

Jakub Jankto during a football match.

Czech Republic footballer Jakub Jankto coming out as gay is a “massive step” for queer people in sports, queer players have said.

The 27-year-old midfielder made headlines across the world this week when he announced, in a video posted on social media, that he’s gay

He becomes the only out gay active male international pro in the sport, and one of just a small number of well-known men in football to have ever come out as gay.

Thomas Beattie, an English player who spent most of his career with teams in Canada and Singapore, came out after retirement in 2020.

He tells PinkNews it’s “very significant having another male footballer come out, especially the level that Jakub is playing at”.

Thomas Beattie pictured standing under a shower while wearing Speedos outdoors. In the foreground of the picture is a life buoy and in the background tall buildings can be seen.
Thomas Beattie. (Supplied)

“I’m delighted for [Jakub] to get to live his truth and love fearlessly,” Beattie, 36, tells PinkNews.

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“That’s what everyone deserves. I messaged him yesterday and he’s over the moon.

“For the community, it’s another massive step in terms of visibility and representation at a high level in sport. Young boys and girls, especially, can look up to him as a role model and idol and it will offer hope to many living in silence.” 

Justin Fashanu made history as the first professional male footballer to come out as gay in 1990. He faced incredible homophobia, and died by suicide in 1998.

For many years there were no openly gay male footballers. Slowly, that is changing.

Australian player Josh Cavallo came out in 2021, followed by Blackpool FC’s Jake Daniels in 2022.

Jakub Jankto is the most high-profile player to come out as gay since Fashanu. He currently plays in the Czech Republic for Sparta Prague on league from Getafe, who play in Spain’s top division, LaLiga. He has also played in Italy’s top league, Serie A, and for the Czech Republic national team.

Jankto’s coming out also shows that change is starting to gather pace in football, Beattie says.

“Clearly the numbers show how few players have felt confident enough in coming out, so there is still a lot of work to do. But there is momentum, which shows [footballers] there is an outcry of support and love when coming out.”

Beattie hopes Jankto out will show young footballers that they don’t need to hide who they are to play the sport they love.

“Visibility and representation saves lives,” he says. “When people can see an example of someone they resonate with, it offers them confidence to know they too can live as their authentic self.” 

Jake Williamson, a gay footballer and Stonewall sports ambassador, described Jakub Jankto’s coming out as huge, considering the global outlook for LGBTQ+ people.

“Jakub’s existence is illegal in a number of countries around the world including that of the host nation of last year’s men’s World Cup [Qatar],” Williamson said.

Jake Williamson pictured wearing swimming trunks on a boat. In the background the water is visible and the sky is blue with clouds swirling.
Jake Williamson wants to make sport better for the next generation of queer kids. (Supplied)

Like Beattie, he hopes children will be able to look up to Jankto and others to see that football can be a sport for everyone.

“He plays regular football for Prague and is looking to be a regular participant in the national team, making it a massive window for representation,” Williamson says.

One thing is certain: more than 30 years after Fashanu came out in a hostile world, Jakub Jankto and his peers have the power to drive change in a society that’s slowly but surely becoming more accepting of gay footballers.

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