Leander Schaerlaekens has been teasing this one for a while on the Twitter, and today his long-form profile on former Montreal Impact midfielder David Testo is out on SB Nation. I’m not going to quote from the piece; it deserves to be read in its entirety.
While there’s nothing news-cycle-ey here per se, it is the first real account of a gay man’s experience as a professional footballer. It is, as you can imagine, incredibly difficult. Lots of denial, fear, and predictably, on-field homophobia.
Canadian soccer also notably played a major role in Testo’s transformation as a player, particularly when he arrived to play for the Montreal Impact, an experience that made him more comfortable in his own identity as a gay man. It’s unfortunate the club is also at the heart of his current hiatus from play. The jury’s out on whether his sexuality is directly related to why the former Impact MVP is still unemployed, but it would be naive to say it didn’t play a role.
It’s also interesting how Testo’s play improved as he felt more comfortable being himself off the pitch. While it’s important to stamp out the already rampant homophobia in professional sports, it should also be recognized that a more open, inclusive professional sport will encourage more gay players to consider a career at the elite level. It’s striking that Testo says he never met a single, gay soccer player in all his time as a professional, nor even heard of another. That level of deep-seated denial wreaks incredible, life-long damage, but it also might play a role in preventing players from reaching their full potential.
The hardest and most disappointing section involves Testo’s inability to enjoy the sport he played for so long, in part because of his present circumstances. Football is too good to cordone off from any one, regardless of their sexual orientation. That Testo had to battle his entire life just to showcase his clear talent at the highest level should be a source of shame for us all. That almost a year later, Testo remains the only professional soccer player to have come out, is a scandal.