“It’s possible to be gay, idol and win titles”, says former goalkeeper Emerson | football

It was just a friendly in Grêmio’s pre-season in 1993, against Capão da Canoa. At 12 minutes into the first half, goalkeeper Kita, from Capão, launches forward Melancia. Seeing the free winger, the young goalkeeper Emerson, then 21 years old, throws himself hard on the opponent to stop the shot.

The shock caused a serious injury to Emerson’s right leg that would take him out of the field for almost two years. Nobody understood the risky reflex in a game that was worthless, and that would even end with an elastic score — 6 to 1 for Grêmio.

At that time, Emerson was already a goalkeeper in the basic categories of the Brazilian team, valued and harassed. And that became a burden. The more famous he became, the greater the risk of being discovered as a gay man by his peers, the media and even his family.

— I threw myself into despair. In fact, the desperation was another, it was not a desperation not to concede a goal. My personal life, with each save I made, each time I stood out more on the field, the empty hole also increased inversely. The more famous I got, the harder it became to be gay within that environment.

— I hadn’t had contact with the gay world until then, at 21. So, when I broke my leg, and it was a serious injury that could have ended my career, because it broke my tibia and fibula, I ended up leaving the scene, despite all the fame and all the commotion it caused in Rio Grande. southern. But I ended up stepping out of the picture a little bit and that’s what gave me the opportunity to be able to rethink some things and start to balance that out. It was unconscious, but it was an act of desperation even to try to change the course of things.

Emerson Ferretti, former goalkeeper — Photo: Marcos Ribolli

Emerson is the special guest on the latest episode of ge podcast “In the Dressing Rooms Closets”. He decided to speak publicly about how he dealt with his sexuality during the 30+ years of football to be a positive example especially for younger athletes who eventually feel trapped in the closet because of prejudice.

— The football environment is very hostile for a gay man, very much so. I wonder how many kids gave up on becoming a football player because of this, because they realized this situation. How many talents were lost? Football lost, clubs lost, because the environment doesn’t really help. I followed through with all this, but I suffered with the consequences of following, it was my dream. I wanted to be Grêmio’s goalkeeper. I wanted to be a football player. I conquered that, I just had to face another side that is very difficult.

Emerson Ferretti in Bahia – Photo: Personal archive

Emerson’s downtime was valuable. Although it cost him the starting position at Grêmio, the period away from the lawns was important for him to understand his personal issues and start having contact with other men, something unimaginable until the moment of the injury.

In 1999, Emerson won the Copa do Brasil title with Juventude. In 2001, for Bahia, he was elected as the best goalkeeper in the Brasileirão. He also played for Flamengo, América-RN, América-RJ, Ituano, Bragantino and Vitória.

Emerson Ferretti, former goalkeeper — Photo: Marcos Ribolli

Check out some excerpts from the interview:

Lonely life
“I didn’t have any contact with the gay world until I was 21. And what I heard was the thoughts of everyone in the family that reproduced the thinking of the time and place, Rio Grande do Sul, a very sexist, conservative state. They said that being gay was shameless, shameless, an aberration. It was inferior, very related to promiscuity. So, everything that was negative was thrown there. I grew up listening to this.

— It took a long time to understand my process because I didn’t have contact with anyone in the gay world to talk to, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I felt the desires, but I didn’t quite understand. When I understood what it was, it took time to accept the fact and then it took a long time to accept being in a relationship with someone of the same sex. It was a very long process, and I think the worst of it was lonely. I had no one to share that weight with. I faced it all alone. I tried to understand everything myself, and I was a child, I was a teenager, without access to information.

Option not to marry for appearance
— Of course, there are gays in football, and many choose to marry. In this way, they protect themselves, they fit into a standard that is accepted. They protect themselves from the suspicion of being homosexual and then manage to survive. But normally, when you do that, you end up leading an unhappy life, making the other person unhappy. I chose not to marry. I chose not to deceive anyone, to face everything alone. Maybe that’s where the fame came from, the comments, because I never got married. I never showed up with a girlfriend, so these comments kept popping up. When there was a meeting, a barbecue of athletes that everyone took their wife, I was always alone. And, of course, the other players talked a lot, but I chose to face it.

See an excerpt from the interview with former goalkeeper Emerson Ferretti

See an excerpt from the interview with former goalkeeper Emerson Ferretti

The reputation of being gay has harmed
I stopped playing at the age of 35, I went all the way, I played for several clubs. I know fame has taken a toll on me. I could even have been a lot more successful. I could have done a lot more things than I did, I could have achieved a lot more things. I believe it is very positive (the career), mainly because I was able to face all this, to have survived until the end. The fact of being gay didn’t stop me, I went to the end. But I know of managers who didn’t hire me because I’m gay.

Gays, locker rooms and virility
There are two things that need to be deconstructed. First, gay has no virility. That’s a lie. Gays have always existed within football and everyone who has been successful, whenever they needed to be manly, they were. Every time I needed to be manly, to be competitive, I went. And second, that a gay person will create problems in the locker room, embarrassing situations. And I come back to an example of someone who played from eight to 35, so almost thirty years. I never created any problems in the locker room, on the contrary, it was always seen as exemplary behavior, a professional. Managers end up avoiding it, and lose talent, right? They are often talented players who can deliver sporting performance and generate revenue for the club.

Emerson Ferretti, former goalkeeper — Photo: Marcos Ribolli

Xuxa and clip of “Amor meu grande amor”, by Barão Vermelho
— Some things I regarded as a professional task. For example, in Xuxa’s participation, I went with other athletes as well. So, I saw it more that way, as a professional job. But fear has always accompanied me, the fear of being thought that I was gay. There was protection, there was always protection.

1999 Copa do Brasil title
“It was the biggest title of my career. Among others I’ve had, it was a great time. After I broke my leg, it took four years to play little. I spent two or three years playing in smaller clubs, showing my work, until Juventude arrived. The title of the Copa do Brasil was my redemption. It’s showing that Emerson, that goalkeeper from the youth team, who started his career very well at Grêmio, who broke his leg twice, who spent a lot of time without playing, was back.

Emerson Ferretti was champion of the 1999 Copa do Brasil by Juventude — Photo: Reproduction

Mental health compromised for decades
“I suffered a lot. Several times I thought about giving up. I had depression, mainly because of loneliness. I had no one to share it with and it was a huge weight on my back. And at the same time I needed to deliver performance, because in football, if you don’t deliver performance, if you don’t play well, you lose your position, you lose contracts. But they were concerned about the technical condition, the tactical condition, the physical condition, which are important. And the emotional? Has football become a business? The goal is not revenue? So take good care of your athletes’ mental health.

— There is also a warning for the clubs to be a little more careful. That’s not fresh. So many other athletes from other modalities are signaling this. Some walk away and say they need to take care of my mental health. The pressure is too great for performance, for results, there comes a time when you need to take a break, you need support. And, in football, we almost never have that support. If we talk or seek this support, it is considered weak. It is a big mistake, this vision needs to be changed. There is a warning, an alert.

For a football without stereotypes and without judgments
You can play without having to fit into a stereotype, without getting married, without causing any kind of embarrassment inside a locker room, which is one of the greatest fears of football managers. I think creating problems within the club is much more of a character deviation, and that can be for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. I am living proof that it can be done. A gay man can play football and conquer everything without causing any problems, including delivering sports results, as I have delivered to several clubs.

Harassment when he was president of Ypiranga
— I was harassed a few times by athletes at the club who heard about my fame. Everyone broke their faces. I never mixed things up as a player, being president so… Never. They were clearly offering themselves in search of something, but they took no for an answer.

Emerson Ferretti, former goalkeeper — Photo: Marcos Ribolli

Motivation to speak up and be an example
— It is possible to be gay, idol and win titles. You can be a talented player. You can be successful in football. I fulfilled my obligations with dignity. I was professional and delivered performance, this ends up motivating me to leave a legacy off the field as well. Talking about the subject, shedding light on the subject, will, for sure, first, break a little this silence that exists, because there has always been gay people in football. But no one talks, everyone ignores it, pretends they don’t have it.

— We, by shedding light on the matter, will make life easier for other people who are in the same situation I found myself in when I played with fear, having to protect myself, sometimes having to marry someone who doesn’t want to, in order to live of appearances or even giving up football. So this is a legacy that I intend to leave off the field and talk about it. This is an example that you can, yes, be a football player and conquer everything you want without having to suffer so much.

— What will it be from now on? I don’t know. It may be that many people are disappointed, it may be that many people welcome, understand, find it an act of courage, have more pride. There it also depends on a series of circumstances, and it depends much more on people’s minds. I have already proved that I am a professional who fulfills my obligations with dignity. I did it as an athlete, I did it as a manager, I do it as a sports commentator, a member of the press. If someone changes their minds about me because of that and closes their doors because of it, that’s their problem.

‘I’m going on with my life, I have things to add.’ I think what I’m saying is already adding a lot to football and society, someone needed to talk about it. We already started, Richarlyson and Igor Benevenuto were brave too. I believe it will help a lot of people who are in a similar situation. That’s the goal too. Leaving this legacy, being a beacon for other people who identify with a situation similar to mine in order to be able to start to change the view that people have in relation to a gay person in football. I hope I can contribute to the subject by exposing myself in this way, being truthful and telling my story.

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