Out of the closet and on to the pitch

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

A new plan to encourage the acceptance of gay players in Dutch football - amateur and professional leagues alike - was unveiled on Thursday, which was National Coming Out Day in the Netherlands.
"Football players have no role models in Holland because there are no openly gay Dutch players", said Marloes van der Laan, the press officer of the KNVB, the Royal Netherlands Football Association. The KNVB's 11-point action plan, called 'Football for Everyone', includes educating trainers, coaches and referees and providing workshops to clubs to help them 'enhance their football climate'. It was drawn up in cooperation with the KNVB's so-called 'Pink Partners', including the gay advocacy group COC Nederland.
According to van der Laan, research shows that there is a discrepancy between the perception of coming out of the closet and actually taking a step through the door. "Many male football players have trouble coming out, but when they do, their team reacts normally and is willing to accept them," she says. "Perception is different from real life."
In an effort to encourage footballers to be more open about their sexual orientation on the field, a commercial commissioned by Dutch broadcaster BNN for the KNVB was unveiled Thursday on the internet.
Called 'Gay? It doesn't matter', the 30-second spot features a football team with one of its players literally in a wooden closet. He warms up, plays, and even showers in his self-imposed box. "Why aren't you coming out of the closet?", reads the text at the end of the ad. "Your team is ready for you."
"The commercial is to put the subject on the agenda and make clubs aware of it," says van der Laan. It has already been viewed some 18,500 times on YouTube, making it, she says, "a big thing here in Holland". And it stands to be an even bigger thing Friday evening, when the ad is broadcast during the Dutch National team's World Cup qualifier against Andorra.