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Football: After coming out, Rogers returns to game

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Robbie Rogers, who thought coming out as a gay man would spell the end of his dream of a football career, has signed with the LA Galaxy and will be Major League Soccer's first openly gay player.

"For 25 years, I've been afraid to share a secret with someone," Rogers said Saturday as the Galaxy held a press conference to introduce their new player.

"And I finally did that. I kept my secret because I thought I couldn't be both a soccer player and a gay athlete.

"I was afraid to be back in an environment that affected me in the past. After I finally got in here, everything was completely normal."

Now Rogers is poised to become the first openly gay athlete to play in a major US professional sports league for men.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said the club must still receive international transfer approval, but if it comes in time Rogers will be in his 18-man squad for Sunday's home game against Seattle.

However, Arena wasn't sure when Rogers might actually play.

"We will slowly build him into it," Arena said, noting that Rogers has been out of the game for about five months. "He will need his proper minutes in games before he is a player in a starting position."

The Galaxy's acquisition of Rogers is another milestone for gay men in team sports.

Rogers, who turned 26 on May 12, revealed his sexual orientation in February in a blog posting in which he also announced his retirement from football.

Rogers had played briefly for Leeds United in England this season, but left the club after a loan deal to English League One side Stevenage expired in January.

In March he told The Guardian newspaper in Britain that he felt the macho culture of football made it "impossible" to come out, and he needed to step away from the game to get his personal life on track.

On Saturday, Rogers said that contrary to his fears, training with the Galaxy in recent weeks had felt completely natural, and had rekindled his passion for the game.

"The locker rooms in the MLS are a little bit different than in Europe ... The MLS definitely is ready and the United States is ready for other (openly gay) athletes in other sports."

Since Rogers's decision to come out, basketball center Jason Collins has also told the world that he is gay -- a revelation that created a bigger splash in the United States because of NBA basketball's high profile.

Collins, a free agent who has played for six NBA teams over the past 12 seasons, hasn't played since his announcement and will be hoping to land with a team when free agents can be signed in July.

"He asked me for some advice and I was honest with him and wished him the best of luck," Rogers said of a conversation he had with Collins. "I'm hoping for millions of people it will give them the confidence to do it."

Rogers, whose four-year stint with the Columbus Crew included a MLS title in 2008, now has a chance to thrust himself into US national team consideration.

He has played for the United States under current coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and is hoping he can contend for place in Klinsmann's 2014 World Cup squad.

"I'm very motivated to prove myself," Rogers said.

First Rogers will have to prove the Galaxy made a good deal in sending high-scoring midfielder Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire, who owned Rogers's MLS rights.

"Mike Magee was a great player here," Arena said. "To acquire a very good player, sometimes you have to give up a very good player.

"We are in this business to win game," Arena added. "If I thought that this would not enable us to continue along this path, we would not have made this trade."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130525/football-after-coming-out-rogers-returns-game