Out British Soccer Player Recalls Teammates' Homophobic Response

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 7, 2023

Jake Williamson
Jake Williamson  (Source:Jake Williamson/Twitter)

Pro soccer players like Australia's Josh Cavallo and Britain's Jake Daniels may have come out of the closet to the support of their colleagues, but things seem to be different in the semi-pro world.

At least, that was the case with onetime semi-pro British soccer player Jake Williamson, whose own teammates shunned him after he came out in an interview, Australian newspaper the Star Observer reported.

Williamson came out in 2021 after meeting his partner, Paul, during the COVID pandemic, the Star Observer relayed. "I remember vividly, we used to take my dog for a walk," Williamson told the BBC's LGBT Sport Podcast. "And I just remember, for the first time ever, we just held hands, and at that point, it was the most powerful experience still today that I've ever had in my life."

The athlete went on to add: "You would think that's so strange, but literally, I held his hand and I just internally I just thought, 'yeah, this is it. I need to just sort of bite the bullet,' and I was ready."

Williamson was playing for a Sunday football league in Birmingham at the time, the newspaper detailed. But as soon as Williamson embraced authenticity, the other players on his team showed what they were made of in turn.

Williamson described the experience to Pink News, saying that after the BBC interview he "experienced homophobia for the first time" when he was "completely shut out of the team."

Added the athlete: "It's bad enough that, in the society we live in, we get made to feel like we're the worst thing on earth sometimes - so it's not nice when your own football team just cuts you off."

The 22-year-old's life hasn't been the same since then - and that's only firmed up his resolve to be the change that needs to happen in the sporting world.

"It didn't stop me playing football but it was something that made me say: 'Right, I need to address this rather than be sad about it,'" he told Pink News.

Now he's speaking up, and speaking out against lingering homophobia in the soccer world in his new role as a sports ambassador with LGBTQ+ advocacy group Stonewall. "You can't save the world, you can't solve every issue under the sun, but that's the route and the path I've had to navigate," Williamson declared. "I want to make that path easier for the next generation."

Also on his to-do list? For 2023, Williamson listed these in a Twitter post:

"Fix knee problem

First Hyrox competition

Cambridge half (Sub 70 mins)

Iron man 👨🏽

800m PB

Find a football team ⚽️"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.