Blackpool’s Jake Daniels has given me hope for the next generation of gay male footballers

I will begin this month’s column with a confession. It may be the off season but I don’t actually enjoy being off all that much. In fact, I think I’m addicted to training. Let me explain. As a footballer I am so used to a routine of always training that when I break it, I start to feel sluggish without that release of adrenalin and those endorphins. In fact, my ideal holiday is getting up in the morning, training and then having the rest of the day to decide what I want to do.

Immediately after the season ended, I had one week completely off. For the first few days I was still exhausted from the FA Cup final, with extra time and the whole emotional experience of that game. Then, from the second week, I began doing some exercises in the gym again.

I’ve got a gym program which the strength and conditioning coach at Chelsea has provided and, with an eye on July’s Women’s Euros, I also have conditioning guidance from our Swedish national-team staff. Both sides have been very open and understanding. The Sweden squad is announced on Tuesday and assuming I am on the list, I should be in good shape when the squad come together on 20 June.

This last week I’ve also been doing football work with Pernille [Harder] here in Stockholm. I am doing the UEFA B coaching licence back at Chelsea so it was fun planning our own sessions and thinking about different things that can benefit our positions. It says a lot about what football nerds we are, though I do feel lucky too. We were doing some one-on-ones drills and for me to come up against one of the best attackers in the world on my off season is quite a luxury!

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I contacted my childhood club, Enskede IK, to get permission for us to use their pitches. The funny thing is that in Sweden, most pitches are open to everyone and one day we had to share the space with lots of kids. You had Pernille and me doing our exercises … and all these children shouting, “Are you Magda?”

This has been my first stay at home since right after the Olympics last August. After a tournament you are so tired and I just walked around like a zombie. Now I feel refreshed and am trying to enjoy every minute. I’m godmother to two of my best friends’ children – they’re both 18 months old so hopefully they can now remember my face.

I’ve also had time to think more about Jake Daniels, the young Blackpool footballer, and the significance of the step he has taken by coming out as gay. I am so impressed by his bravery in coming out as an active gay male footballer at the age of just 17.

It is one thing if it you are a retired footballer or you have already been out privately for a long period of time; the fact he has felt able to take this step at 17 gives me hope for the next generation. I will be interested to see if he now wants to take on the role of a spokesperson – and that is a big responsibility – or whether he simply wished to tell the world he’s gay and then play his football. That’s for him to decide.

I’ve read that he has a mentor talking to him – a former player he had contacted – and this shows the importance of having people to talk to. Hopefully the next person can reach out to Jake, in turn, and this will create a snowball effect. Only this week we’ve seen two Scottish referees, Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson, come out and this representation – with gay people in different roles in football – will help contribute to an accepting environment. I imagine if you’re a young gay referee who sees this news, you now have less reason to feel alone.

I’ve also been encouraged by a recent meeting Pernille and I had with Rio Ferdinand to talk about homophobia in sport. I got a sense that he really wanted to help. He’s a straight, male ex-footballer with a huge platform and he genuinely wanted to hear how he could make life easier for other people and these matters as a lot of people listen to him and look up to him.

Ultimately, every little step contributes to normalising something that for so long was seen as weird, disgusting and even criminal – all these stigmas which have created a sense of pressure inside every young teenager who realises they are gay. We’ve all had that feeling that “I’m not normal” yet now, as more and more people talk about it, the more normal it becomes. That said, the fact Jake Daniels has made headlines all over the world shows it is still a big thing. My hope is that there’ll come the day when it doesn’t make the news at all.

Magda Eriksson is the captain of Chelsea FC Women’s team, a Sweden international and columnist for i.

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