Out gay Scottish footballer Zander Murray has announced his plans to retire at the end of the current season.
Earlier this year, the Scottish forward signed with Bonnyrigg Rose to become the only out gay player in the men’s Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) and first out gay player in the Scottish league since Justin Fashanu.
The 32-year-old footballer publicly came out in September last year while representing Gala Fairydean Rovers in the Lowland League.
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The footballer reflected on how coming out had left him feeling lighter back in September 2022, stating “It feels like the weight of the world is now off my shoulders”.
“The reason I have decided to do this now is two-fold. Firstly, I was on holiday recently at a Pride event and I have always been that closeted never to go to these things but I loved it. The vibe was brilliant and everyone was just being free and happy and it was great to just be me”, he said.
In his commitment to inspire others, Murray said that he hoped his announcement would provide support to fellow players, “I also want to help other players who are struggling with this as it isn’t easy for men, especially footballers to deal with.”
Murray has returned to his original club, Gala Fairydean Rovers, where he plans to conclude his playing career. He told the BBC that he was happy to end his professional football career in a club that provided support during his coming-out and that he felt he had achieved all that he desired.
“The big thing is, it’s my final season as a footballer. I think you just know when your time is up and that’s where I’m at. You just know when the right time is,” he said.
“I have achieved what I wanted to. I wanted to play in the league and I have done that. And I feel with what is happening off the pitch for me, I don’t really want to go on any further”, he added.
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Murray has actively collaborated with the charity Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), engaging with youth teams throughout Scotland and served as an ambassador at the Gay Games 2023 in Hong Kong this past November.
He was also the subject of a new BBC documentary, Disclosure: Out on the Pitch, where he discussed his sexual identity and issues of inclusion and homophobia in soccer. Released in March of this year, the documentary featured the footballer engaging in conversations with various LGBTQ fans, amateur players, and openly gay referee Lloyd Wilson, shedding light on the risks associated with anti-gay language and rhetoric in the soccer field.
Murray expressed the possibility of coaching women’s teams, describing the environment as LGBTQI inclusive which felt like a “welcoming” and “safe space”.
“Maybe it’s my own internal issue but I wouldn’t feel comfortable as a coach in the men’s game. I feel that’s all on me,” he shared.
Coming Out In Men’s Professional Soccer
According to a report by Statista.com, FIFA’s estimation indicates a global count of 123,694 professional soccer players, with England and Scotland contributing to over 10,000 registered players. When Murray retires from professional football, there will be just five openly gay footballers remaining in the men’s professional game worldwide.
According to that calculation, the representation of gay and bisexual men on the playing side of the game will be a mere 0.004% once he leaves the professional sporting arena.
Currently the other out gay footballers are Australian footballer Josh Cavallo (A-League side Adelaide United), Andy Brennan (Victorian league side South Melbourne FC), Jake Daniels (Blackpool FC in the UK), Czech player Jakub Jankto (Italian Serie A side Cagliari), and American Collin Martin (North Carolina FC).