Jakub Jankto (Prague, 1996) is freer today than he was a few weeks ago. After pondering it for months, on February 13 he announced that he is homosexual. His parents, his ex-wife, his coach and his Sparta Prague teammates were the first to learn of the news that, months later, he decided to share with the world. At the age of 27, with a son and many dreams to fulfill, Jankto receives us in the capital of the Czech Republic to, for the first time, talk about how he has lived the last few weeks after becoming the first active European footballer to admit that he is homosexual. .
Ask. Several weeks have passed since he announced his homosexuality… How are you?
Answer. I’m very well. It was a hard three weeks, especially the first one, because I didn’t know what to expect. But the reactions were perfect in the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy… Surely that helps you a lot to continue, to live and to be focused on football, which is what comes first for me. Football first. Then I can concentrate on other things.
Q. What about your teammates, your coach and the people at the club?
R. Last year my parents and my ex-wife were the first to know. A few months ago I told the players and the coach and we talked about what to do and how to continue. They told me there was no problem and that helps a lot, but I felt there was something between us, something I can’t exactly describe, so I decided to tell everyone. When you’re the first player it’s a little weird, but it’s all good.
I want to live like all the people live
Q. Talked about his family and his ex-wife. What did she tell him?
R. I was surprised. When you say this after 26 years it is not expected. Thank God, I have passed that moment and they have helped me in all aspects. The only thing that was a bit difficult was our son, but thanks to Marketa (his wife) we have reached an agreement and we do everything for our son.
Q. How good it must have been for him to receive all that support to be able to focus solely on football.
R. When it is the first case in football you have to expect that certain reactions are not positive, but I wanted to feel free. I want to live like all people live. I have done this because I want to help other people who have a different orientation. I think I can be a good example.
Q. Are you happy to announce it now or do you think you should have done it sooner?
R. It was at the moment when I felt it. I haven’t been thinking all my life about “comming out” (coming out of the closet). I have played normally for eight years. I don’t know what happened, but there are certain things you want to say. You want to live how you want to live. I said it the moment I felt it.
You live only once, then there is nothing. I’m free now
Q. When did you realize you were gay and wanted to fall in love with a man?
R. When I was little and I was fourteen or fifteen years old I felt that something was different. I tried having relationships with women, but I felt that something was off. There was no point in going on like this all your life because you only live once and then there is nothing. I decided it doesn’t make any sense because everything can be fixed the way we’ve fixed it and now I’m free.
Q. Are you prepared to listen to those who criticize you?
R. Of course I’m ready. I don’t know what can happen in the future, but I hope it will be a good example for everyone. In some places, maybe, you find people who can’t stand it, but I respect everyone. Maybe if I were living in Spain I wouldn’t say it, but when you’re at home… I don’t know what happened, but in my mind there was a moment in which I said: You are going to say that you are homosexual and you can live as you want.
Q. So going back to Prague helped him tell it…
R. Of course, you have friends here, family, your son… When you’re at home it’s easier to say that. I was playing seven years in Italy and one year in Spain, but being at home helps you a lot.
Q. Do you think you have served as an example for other players in your situation? Are there more colleagues who could be encouraged to tell it?
R. I think so, but it is not the intention. They don’t have to be afraid, which I think is the problem in this issue. Many players and people are afraid to tell other people that they have a different orientation. I don’t expect that now that other players are going to say that they are homosexual. I wish it wasn’t news and that in five or six years we would say “I’m homosexual” and we could continue as if nothing had happened.
Q. That has happened in women’s sports. Why do you think it has become more normalized among women?
R. It is a very interesting question. When I meet a girl, a normal question is whether she likes men or women. For me, it is a very normal question, but with men it is different. I don’t know if it’s because I’m more masculine and say I’m not gay… They’re afraid. It’s just that. I think so.
I don’t think Spain is a homophobic country
Q. Earlier you talked about going back to Prague and being home. Do you consider that Spain is a homophobic country?
R. There are many homophobic countries, but I don’t think Spain is. In Italy, the Czech Republic or Spain it is easier than in, for example, Asia, Africa or Qatar. It’s easier and it helps you.
Q. You just mentioned Qatar. You just saw what happened at the World Cup with the ‘One Love’ bracelets, how do you feel about that?
R. That doesn’t interest me much because, as a player, what I want is to be on the pitch. When these issues are discussed there is controversy, but I am not a person who can decide what is done. There are just different cultures and I respect them. When I go to Qatar I respect all the rules, so when I am here I expect people to respect the rules. In my opinion, everything is a matter of respect. You have to have respect for the people where you are.
I want to move forward as a soccer player, not as a gay person.
Q. What is Jakub Jankto dreaming of now?
R. I hope everything continues as if nothing had happened. I want to move forward as a soccer player, not as a gay person. I hope that happens. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but surely we can help and set a good example. I want to set a good example.
Q. What message would you send to sports lovers and your fellow professionals?
R.. First of all I want to thank all the people who have written me positive messages, which were many millions. And I want to tell everyone who has a different orientation that it is not a problem and they can live normally.
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