Jakub Jankto thrilled he can play ‘without hiding or being scared’ after coming out
Czech Republic professional footballer Jakub Janto has said that if he could come out as gay again, he would, because now he can do what he loves “without hiding or being scared.”
The 27-year-old midfielder made headlines worldwide when he came out back in February, making him the only openly gay international men’s footballer.
Now, in a new interview, Jankto has said that, while he believes football is “still a little bit homophobic”, he wouldn’t take back the “huge moment.”
“I was 13 or 14 years old when I knew that something was… not unnatural, but different,” he told BBC Sport in a new interview.
“As a kid, you don’t think too much about it. But when I tried my first relationship with a girlfriend, it wasn’t like it was with a boy, you know?
“And then when I got into professional football teams, being gay was still seen as ‘not normal’, and football is still a little bit homophobic, I think.
“So I was scared when I was 18 or 19 and next to other guys and couldn’t open messages on WhatsApp, because I always had the fear that someone might see a message or a photo from a guy.”
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Jankto recalled that it was his desire to be a better footballer that motivated him to eventually come out.
“Playing professional football is a dream of mine, and I’m always searching for ways to get better,” Jankto shared. “And coming out is what I needed to do to get better.”
“I also thought to myself: ‘Well look, Jakub, you are a professional footballer, but you have your life that you have to live like you want.’ And for me, that was fundamental.”
The football star shared that, although coming out was a “huge moment for [him]”, he “wasn’t scared when [he] did it.”
Now, eight months later, he can confirm that it was definitely the right move for him.
“If I could do it again, I definitely would, because it helped me and I think it helped many, many people. It was a huge moment for all footballers, and many professional footballers at many clubs wrote to me, thanking me for it,” he said.
“I think it set a good, positive example for everybody, and now I’m really happy that I can play without hiding or being scared. I just carry on like nothing has happened, and that’s really, really good.”
Although coming out in such a public way didn’t come without some social media abuse, Jankto says that the response has been generally positive so far.
“I was expecting that at away games, somebody in the crowd would whistle at me – but nobody did. Just nobody, nobody! And I was like: ‘Oh my god, this is so good.’ It’s so good that everyone’s supporting me, I feel really great here,” he shared.
Jankto admitted that, while he’s happy to be the first at his level to come out as gay, he’s genuinely surprised that no one had done it before him.
“I was thinking about the situation and thought: ‘You are the first case like this’,” he said.
“It’s 2023, I don’t know how many millions of people are gay, and you’re the first gay footballer in the top five leagues – this is strange! I was surprised by that.”
Either way, Jankto raved that, for the first time, he feels like he can be his authentic self on and off the pitch – and all while inspiring countless others.
“I’m definitely proud of myself because if I can get through this situation, I can go through every situation in the rest of my life,” he said.
“And if you say that gay people are proud of me, I say that I’m proud of you, because I know how you feel. I know how people feel if they have to hide something, and I wish you good luck and stay strong, because there’s no reason to be scared.”
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