SA's first openly gay soccer player, Phuti Lekoloane, says the game is not ready to embrace the homosexual community.
In an interview, he said he wouldn’t advise any soccer player to come out because of the stereotypes attached to the LGBTQ+ community.
The 28-year-old, who publicly came out in 2015, said professional gay players face barriers to make it big in the professional ranks.
Lekoloane told TimesLIVE he was once rejected by a team in the national first division because of his sexual orientation.
“I risked everything to live my truth, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to come out now because of the stereotype. There is a lot at stake.
“If you come out, you have a lot to lose.
“I have lost everything that I have dreamed of,” he said.
“I wanted to play in the (national first division), but if teams in this league discriminate against you because of your sexuality, then it's another thing.
“You can't go there if teams still don't understand homosexuality, so that is how I got rejected. If I was in the closet, I think I would have made it,” he said.
The goalkeeper, who plays for Makapanstad RFC in the ABC Motsepe League, said: “My sexuality has robbed me of my career.
“Some people depend on football to put bread on the table. It's always tricky, especially in football, but I would advise people to start living their truth and the more people that come out, the more we break the stereotype.”
Lekoloane said even though he believes football, in general, is ready for gay soccer players, it's up to individuals who call the shots.
He said he became the sacrificial lamb, even though there are others in football who are gay. They, however, remain in the closet for fear of victimisation.
“There are a lot of gay guys in the closet that are playing in the league and the funny part is that it’s not only players, even the team managers are (gay).
“We do have bisexual team managers and coaches who are in the closet, so it's always like that. I am the sacrificial lamb,” he said.
Lekoloane is using his foundation to dispel stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community and hopes to usher in the winds of change by hosting The Legacy Games, which will be staged over two weekends at Mayibuye Sports Ground in Midrand.
The event kicks off on Human Rights Day in March.
“We want to tackle homophobia in football. Our message to the whole world is that football is everyone's game, so we want to fight for inclusion and for equality.
“There is not much (said) about gays in football because of the stereotype,” said Lekoloane.