Jakub Jankto playing for the Czech national team.
Jakub Jankto playing for the Czech national team.

Jakub Jankto

Beyond intentions

On 13th February 2023, Jakub Jankto, a prominent Czech football player, became the subject of global media attention. On this day, he became the first active male international player to come out as gay.

The trailblazer

Male football has often been an unwelcoming place for members of the LGBTI+ community. Whilst progress has been made in recent decades, homophobic behaviour is unfortunately still common in various areas of the sport. Homophobic slurs are often used against footballers and opposition fans alike and individual players can easily become objects of abuse for any perceived divergence from a narrowly defined ideal of male virility.

In contrast with the world of female football, which has been considerably more open and welcoming to the LGBTI+ community, only a handful of high-profile active male footballers have come out to this day. Jankto, a player of Cagliari Calcio in the Italian Serie A with dozens of matches for the Czech national team under his belt, has arguably been the most prominent of them.

Empowering others

Jankto’s coming out received positive reactions from various leading clubs and prominent football players. To name just a few, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and Neymar have all expressed their support for the player.

Talking about his decision, Jankto has emphasised that he was motivated by his desire not to have to hide anymore and to take control of his life by being himself. As he told ESPN, the international media outlet, “Yeah, it wasn’t easy. But this is who I am.” Jankto has also expressed hope that his step will empower others in a similar situation and the wish that one day, belonging to the LGBTI+ community will not be seen as anything unusual.

Despite his public coming out, Jankto has avoided being seen as an ambassador of the LGBTI+ community in the football world. In relation to this, ESPN dubbed him a “reluctant role model”. Nevertheless, the significance of his message has not been lost. Thomas Hitzlsperger, a famous German footballer who came out after retiring, argued that Jankto’s decision can galvanise the LGBTI+ community. “The message is huge and he is a role model, whether he intends to be or not,” commented Hitzlsperger.

Thinking Points

  • In your opinion, why have more male footballers not come out as gay?
  • What are some of the expectations that athletes face?
  • What is the position of the LGBTI+ community in your country?

Find out more

You can find out more about Jankto and his decision to come out in these interviews for ESPN (in English) and for Czech Radio (in Czech). You can also follow Jankto on Instagram.

Jakub Jankto has recently become the first male international player to come out as gay.

Life Story 138

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Jakub Jankto playing for the Czech national team.
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