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Former Leeds player retires after admitting he is gay

Robbie Rogers, USA Photo: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

Former Leeds midfielder Robbie Rogers has revealed he is gay and announced his retirement from football at the age of 25 - forcing the game to once again examine its last great taboo.

Rogers, capped 18 times by the United States and a 2008 Olympian, wrote on his blog that he had been afraid of revealing his sexuality - and he now wants to live a new life outside of the game.

"Secrets can cause so much internal damage," he wrote. "People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay.

"Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently."

He added: "Now is my time to step away. It's time to discover myself away from football."

No British-based professional player has come out since ex-Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu in 1990. He committed suicide eight years later aged 37.

While the Professional Footballers' Association and other organisations continue to work with gay players within the game, none of them has wanted to gopublic.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, told Press Association Sport: "I'm pleased that Robbie's come out for his own sake. We do have players who've said that, while they are gay, they don't feel comfortable enough to come out.

"It's not dissimilar to many black players, and we need to create a safe environment for them on and off the field. If there is abuse, that needs to be dealt with by all the football family.

"It's no bad thing that he's been brave enough to come out. We know of players who are playing who are gay who've not had that confidence as yet. But, as the rest of the world becomes more civilised, hopefully that will come."

That view was echoed by Ruth Hunt, director of public affairs for lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, who said: "It's great that Robbie now feels able to be open about his sexuality but it remains a shame that no professional player feels able to be out during their career.

"Homophobia remains rife in football and we must work together to stop it for the sake of the game."

There has been a thawing of attitudes to the prospect of gay players in Britain in recent times.

Last month, West Ham winger Matt Jarvis became the third footballer to feature on the cover of the UK's best-selling gay magazine, Attitude, after David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg.

Although not gay himself, Jarvis insisted gay footballers should feel comfortable enough to come out.

Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the PFA, said last year he had been engaged in discussions with eight gay players but none of them wished to go public.

Carlisle was one of several players to voice their support for Rogers via Twitter this evening, writing: "Huge admiration for @robbierogers - I hope retirement is not because of this revelation, you have our respect & support wherever you go!"

Bolton and United States midfielder Stuart Holden wrote: "Much love and respect to my boy @robbierogers ! Proud to be your friend bro", while ex-Manchester City winger DaMarcus Beasley, now of Puebla, said: "I have a lot of respect for my boy @robbierogers. good luck in your next adventure man!!"

Eddie Pope, who played in three World Cups for the United States and is now the director of player relations for the MLS Players' Union, tweeted: "@robbierogers Brave men like you will make it so that one day there's no need for an announcement.That day can't arrive soon enough. #Support"

Rogers had been without a club since leaving Leeds last month, shortly after returning from a loan spell at League One Stevenage.

The Californian began his career in the academy of Dutch club Heerenveen but broke through with the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer before joining Leeds in 2012.

His career was at a crossroads, but Chris Basiurski, chairman of Gay Football Supporters Network, said he hoped that Rogers could have played on if he wanted to after coming out.

"I'd be disappointed if (he's retired) because he felt as though he couldn't still have a career," he told Press Association Sport.

"What we want to do within our organisation is create an atmosphere where a player could come out if they wanted to without fear.

"If he feels he has to retire after this it shows there is still some way to go to create that atmosphere."

That is a challenge Taylor insists the PFA remains committed to.

"There needs to be a feeling that there is a comfortable environment for everybody," he said. "We're aware through our sporting chance clinic that players who deal with such issues at the moment feel they would be targeted and the attention would no longer be on them as a footballer.

"That's a real challenge. But the game has to be up to that. If we're going to claim to be the major sport in the world, both in terms of spectators and participation, then we've got to use that to create a better example."