The image of Sweden as a liberal and open-minded country took a bashing this week. In comparison to many other countries in the world, Sweden is liberal. It is a place where, relatively speaking, minority groups can live safe in the knowledge that they are free from attack and protected by the law.
However, earlier this week, a popular young football player came out about being gay in the national press. The news was extra tantalising because the footballer in question is the son of a Swedish football legend from decades back. Many Swedes reacted neutrally to the news, not realy seeing any big issue around the fact that someone is gay – even if they are an elite sportsperson. But not everyone reacted in this fashion.
In the comments box on the football website http://www.fotbollskanalen.se, hate and homophobia flourished. In the end, the comments were so many, and so vile, that the website’s editor shut down the comments box. The hate that was spewed out had gone way over the limit.
This type of reaction indicates precisely why it is so good that footballers and other sportspeople come out. The macho culture, especially in football, means that many gay sportspeople are afraid to come out because they are afraid that their career will suffer or they will lose sponsors and fans. And as long as this fear exists, different sexual preferences will never been treated as equal, even in the democratic countries around the world.
So, in liberal Sweden, homophobia still exists. There is still work to be done.