13 March ~ The BBC's report that a professional footballer had come out as gay was slightly misleading as the team of the man in question, Anton Hysen, are a long way from being a full-time club. Utsiktens BK are a small Gothenburg side playing in the regional fourth division and Hysen himself gains his profile as much through his famous footballing family as his ability. Yet his open statement of his sexuality cannot be anything other than a positive step toward combating the homophobia that dogs football.
Hysen's declaration does at any rate help to explain the unexpected appearance of his father Glenn – best known in Britain as Alan Hansen's final central defensive partner at Liverpool (where Anton was born) and currently Utsiktens manager – at the 2007 Stockholm Pride festival. That day he asked the question: "How easy is it for a 16-year-old to come out to his team mates?" At the time his appearance was generally welcomed but nobody suspected that he was talking about his own son.
Sweden may be a leader in terms of its attitude to gay rights and gender equality but it was no doubt hard for Hysen, carrying the weight of a famous surname, to be open about his homosexuality. There are openly lesbian professional footballers in Sweden, and there was a no fuss made recently when Jessica Landstrom, a striker with Linkopings FC, mentioned in a post-match interview that she was house hunting with her female partner.
Hysen's public statement, however, formed the centrepiece of the most recent issue of the Swedish football magazine Offside, and was picked up by global media, reflecting a wider difference in responses to male and female homosexuality in sport. Anton Hysen may well never reach the professional heights of his brother Tobias – a striker with Gothenburg, capped 12 times by Sweden – or his father, but Glenn's continued support for his son should offer a shining example to the wider football world. Dominic Hinde