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Germany

Gay soccer players? Not in German stadiums

In the Bundesliga, there's only one known gay player. And he's not even known - he came out "anonymously." DW met up with a gay team in Cologne - the Cream Team - to see how homosexuality is perceived in German soccer.

For 30 minutes it had the makings of an upset. Last-place Cream Team Cologne scored early in the fifth and 17th minutes, taking a 2-0 lead over first-place Dynamo Tresen.

By halftime, though, the score is tied, 2-2. Coach Holger's inspirational halftime speech quickly becomes a tirade. He compares his team's play to "soft cheese," and, as his team trots back onto the field, a sense of the inevitable follows them.

A handful of yellow cards later, Cream Team Cologne leaves the pitch with a frustrating 6-3 loss.

The team won't stay down for long. They're on their way to a local bar, where they'll celebrate 20 years of being Germany's winningest gay soccer team.

A Bundesliga mystery

Even today, the words "gay" and "soccer" have an oil-and-water-like quality for many Germans. In the Bundesliga, Germany's professional soccer league, 100 percent of the players are heterosexual - at least on record. Some doubt the veracity of that number, though.

A woman with red-brown hair and wearing a blue blazer presses her palms together in thought (Photo: Oliver Dietze dpa/lrs)

Merkel surprised many with her direct comments

"Out of 500, 600 players?" said Cream Team member Till. "I would be very surprised if not one of them was gay."

In a recent interview with a German cultural magazine called Fluter, a German professional soccer player did "out" himself as gay. He did so anonymously, though. The admission left many German soccer fans scratching their heads. Who on earth could it be?

Even Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in, calling on soccer players to have "courage" and reassuring them that they lived in country where they "shouldn't have to worry" about being gay.

Her well-intentioned words didn't strike a chord with everyone. With 20 years' experience, Cream Team Cologne thinks it's a bit more complicated than that.

A public shaming

"I wouldn't do it," said Christoph, who joined the Cream Team a few years ago. "Imagine if you play in Dortmund, 80,000 people, if they all scream 'fag,' 'die' – or I don't even know what they would scream."

A smiling middle-aged man wearing a blue sweater, white collared shirt and dark eye glasses looks at the camera against a white backdrop.

Co-founder Andreas Steine sees stadiums as bastions of bigotry

He also believes that the first player to out himself officially will take a financial hit as a result. "If you say OK, I [out myself] and I don't get another contract, that's fine. But if you're not willing to accept that or you can't accept it because you haven't earned enough money…?"

Regardless of how many players in the Bundesliga are gay, Cream Team team co-founder Andreas Steine hopes that the first to out himself will be the "right kind" of gay soccer player.

"If it's someone from our national team and everybody likes him, it'll be OK. But if it's someone who isn't a favorite in the public eye, and the newspapers don't like him - that will be a problematic situation."

'Of Wimps and World Champions'

At the Cologne Sports Museum, an exhibit dedicated to the team's 20 years of success includes old photographs, retired jerseys, and a small mountain of trophies. The team has come a long way.

"At the beginning of the 1990s a gay soccer team couldn't get soccer field," said team co-founder Rolf Emmerich. "They wouldn't take us, we just didn't have anywhere to train." Since then the Cream Team has won two gay world championships and five gay European cups.

One of the Cream Team's players, Igor, translates a quote scribbled onto the wall. It's attributed to former professional soccer player Jürgen Roman. "Gay footballers must exist. However, I don't know where."

A wall has graffiti on it that reads 'Bayern,' or a drawing of a penis. Der Fotograf / die Fotografin ist (freie) Mitarbeiter(in) der DW

A men's bathroom? Not exactly. Visitors are encouraged to scrawl graffiti at the Cream Team exhibit

In Cologne, they play behind the city's professional soccer stadium on a broad expanse of green fields. And while the Cream Team eagerly awaits the day that professional Germans can be both gay and play Bundesliga soccer, it isn't their immediate concern.

The Out Games are taking place in Antwerp next summer. If Cologne's going to take down London Stonewall or the teams from Paris or San Francisco, they have a lot of work to do.

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