Jakub Jankto, a Czech football player, has made headlines after publicly coming out as gay in a video he shared on social media.
The 27-year-old midfielder spoke about the challenges he has faced as a gay athlete and his desire to live his life without prejudice and violence, but with love.
In the video, Jankto acknowledged his strengths, weaknesses, family, and friends – emphasizing that being gay is a part of who he is.
Jankto’s announcement makes him one of the few openly gay active international men’s players.
Jankto’s video has garnered widespread support on social media.
From PSV Eindhoven to Juventus Women, big organizations are sharing their love for Jakub’s bravery in coming out.
FIFA as well expressed support for Jankto, tweeting “We’re all with you, Jakub. Football is for everyone.”
While the support is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it also highlights the disconnect between FIFA’s stated values and its actions.
The organization has faced criticism for its decision to host the World Cup in countries like Russia and Qatar, where homosexuality is criminalized and actively punished.
FIFA has repeatedly promised to enforce its policies on promoting tolerance and inclusion at the World Cup, including in Qatar, but the reality on the ground has been different.
During the 2022 World Cup, we saw the police taking extremely strict actions like confiscating anything rainbow related from spectators, even if they were not explicitly LGBT-related.
For example, we saw how a Brazilian journalist who had a rainbow flag had their phones taken away from them.
This rainbow was actually a part of their state flag and was not LGBT related. Sounds like the World Cup was pretty inclusive.
This is not to say that FIFA is solely responsible for the treatment of LGBT people in Russia and Qatar, but it is worth considering the impact of their decisions and the message it sends.
By hosting a tournament of such prestige in countries that discriminate against people, FIFA is implicitly condoning these actions and normalizing discrimination.
Many fans see FIFA’s support of Jakub Jankto as hypocritical, given that they were willing to host the World Cup in a country where being gay is not only stigmatized but also illegal.
Fans have taken to social media to voice their outrage, with many pointing out the timing of Jakub Jankto’s announcement and questioning whether FIFA’s support would have been the same if he had come out just before the World Cup.
Some fans have also criticized FIFA for failing to take a stronger stance on discrimination against the LGBT community in the sport.
Jankto’s coming out is a reminder of the importance of representation in sports and the need for more openly out athletes. As one of the few international men’s players to come out, Jankto is now in a position to be a role model and inspire others who may be struggling with their own identity.
However, it’s worth acknowledging the difficulty and risk of coming out publicly, especially in the hyper-masculine world of professional sports. For every Jankto, there may be many more athletes who feel unable to be open about their sexuality due to fear of discrimination or backlash from fans and teammates.
That’s why it’s so important for organizations like FIFA to take a stronger stance on discrimination and actively work to promote tolerance and inclusion. It’s not enough to pay lip service to these values; they must be actively enforced and practised in order to make a meaningful impact.
Jankto’s courage in coming out is a reminder of the progress that still needs to be made in sports and society as a whole. While there has been some progress in recent years, with more athletes feeling comfortable coming out and more organizations working to promote inclusion and diversity, there is still a long way to go.
The support shown to Jankto by FIFA is a step in the right direction, but it must be accompanied by real action and a commitment to promoting tolerance and inclusion in all aspects of the sport. Otherwise, it risks being seen as empty rhetoric and hypocritical, given FIFA’s history of hosting the World Cup in countries that discriminate against LGBT people.