Former player Ousem Belkacem relaunched the topic of “homophobia in professional football” in his autobiography this spring.
21-year-old Australian Josh Cavallo, who is currently the only professional soccer player in the world, is open about his sexual orientation. At the end of October he did Instagram hemorrhage. The video touched him hard, says Frenchman Ousem Belkacem, who ended his career as a professional footballer 13 years ago because of his homosexuality.
At the time, he would have given anything to set an example like Josh Cavallo. Someone standing there and saying: Being gay and playing football is not a problem. Today, at 33 years old, he wants to be a role model for other young people. That’s why he wrote his personal story. It was released as a book this spring. “Adieu ma honte” is the name of the autobiography, loosely translated as “Goodbye, shame.”
Ouissem Belgacem was born in 1988 in a suburb of Aix-en-Provence in southern France. Osim’s parents came to France from Tunisia. The religion Islam is very important. And on the football field, the law of the fittest applies. Being gay in such an environment? not better.
When he was eight years old, he realized that he only thought of boys. But being gay – in your neighborhood, in the religious environment and in football – is the last thing you want, he says.
Therapy and prayer did not help
At the time he only wanted two things: to be a professional soccer player and definitely not to be gay. At that time he was convinced that he could change his sexuality. Psychologists visited, prayed and even dated a girl for three years. Nothing works.
At the same time, he does a very good job in terms of football. At the age of 13 he joined the Toulouse Youth Academy. At the age of nineteen he participated in the African Cup of Tunisia. At the age of twenty, he moved to the United States, to the Colorado Rapids in the American Football League.
If you turn professional now, you will have to lie to yourself and others for another 15 years.
There is a thought: “If you become a professional now, you will have to lie to yourself and others for another 15 years.” But the psychological tension was too great, he lost the joy of football and decided to reverse his professional career.
It is clear to Wissem Belkacem: “Football is a homophobic environment.” Positive terms were never used in this context during his time as a player. “If a player wants to insult his opponent, he insults him as a ‘dirty bastard’.”
But it wasn’t any better in the toilet, either. Even the coach would regularly motivate his players by saying, “You’re not gay, you’re not gay, move your ass!”
Abort the game if there is harassment
Not to mention the many fans who were shouting anti-gay insults in the stadium. So Ouissem Belgacem would be grateful if the referees in France had the opportunity to abandon the game as soon as fans expressed their homophobia. In the case of racist statements, this could have been done today.
Ouissem Belgacem’s professional career came from nothing and instead, he now runs a company with several employees who train active professionals so that they can develop further off the field – also for their career after football. He speaks to the youth divisions of the teams in the first French league. He tries to sensitize young talents – many of whom have an immigrant background like himself – to the topic of homosexuality in sports.
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