Czech footballer's coming out praised as courageous statement in region still marred by anti-LGBTQ+ violence

Czech footballer's coming out praised as courageous statement in region still marred by anti-LGBTQ+ violence
Jakub Jankto (left): “I’m homosexual, and I no longer want to hide myself.” / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera February 15, 2023

Czech international Jakub Jankto has become the highest-profile active footballer to come out as homosexual. Jankto’s powerful video clip shared on social media aroused praise and encouragement across Europe, and local human rights advocates pointed it out as an act of great personal bravery.    

“Like everybody else, I want to live my life in freedom without fears, without prejudice, without violence but with love,” Jankto stated in a video before closing it off with a simple line, “I’m homosexual, and I no longer want to hide myself.”

Lawyer and activist Krystof Stupka shared Jankto’s video adding, “CZE is the 7th worst in the EU in LGBTQ+ rights according to Rainbow map. This is what bravery looks like!”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavsky (Pirate Party) thanked Jankto for coming out, saying that “it is something which represents us abroad and can give courage to others”.

Lipavsky was joined in thanking Jankto by the government's envoy for Human Rights, Klara Simackova Laurencikova, who posted that Jankto has the “courage to be a model for those who are looking for strength” to make a similar statement.   

Jankto’s message comes only some four months after a tragic shooting in Bratislava in neighbouring Slovakia carried out by a radicalised teen shooter targeting LGBTQ+ people and Jews. A hatred crime later classified as an act of terrorism left two men dead, Juraj Vankulic and Matus Horvath, and injured one woman standing in front of an LGBTQ+ friendly bar.

The shooting sparked rallies in support of the LGBTQ+ community in Slovakia as well as in Czechia, where there were calls for passing legislation giving equal rights to marriage to everyone.

Czechia allows same sex partnerships, as do Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, and Croatia among the EU countries in CEE, while Slovenia allows same sex marriages.

Sports Editor Tomas Macak from CNN Prima News pointed out that Jankto’s coming out is all the more courageous as it took place in the Czech football environment.

Jankto is on loan at Sparta Prague from the Spanish side Getafe, and before that he spent most of his professional career in the Italian league playing for Udine and Sampdoria. Raised by Sparta’s city arch-rivals Slavia in his junior years, Jankto wished to return home last summer after a decade playing abroad.

Both of the country’s best-known football clubs, Sparta and Slavia, have been embroiled in racist controversies and regularly penalised by UEFA for the racist behaviour of their fans. In 2021 Slavia Prague’s defender Ondrej Kudela was handed a 10-game ban for racially abusing Glasgow Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara during a knock-out stage at the Europa Liga match-up.

“Frankly, it is quite easy to find a more civilised and more tolerant environment than Czech football stadiums,” commented Macak, adding that he has “no illusions” that local fans “would welcome gays with a rainbow flag”.

Despite persisting intolerance and racism among Czech football fans, and conservative and populist parties hesitating to approve the same-sex marriage bill or even to ratify such basics as the Istanbul Convention condemning domestic and sexual violence against women, support for a same-sex marriage bill among the Czech population oscillates around 65%, polling agencies show.    

In the recently published Universal Periodic Review of human rights, the UN called out Czechia’s stance on violence against women and the unequal position of Czech Roma as some of the most glaring legislative and institutional shortcomings in the country.