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EXCLUSIVE: Robbie Keane tells us why he’s urging a ‘Yes’ vote

NewsBy Esther McCarthy
ALL IN FAVOUR SAY AYE: Keane is urging people to vote 'Yes'
ALL IN FAVOUR SAY AYE: Keane is urging people to vote 'Yes'

Football legend Robbie Keane today lends his support to a ‘YES’ vote in this month’s marriage equality referendum.

The Republic of Ireland captain and LA Galaxy star said he was prompted to voice his support because he fears gay people are being “excluded because of their sexuality”. 

In an open letter to Sunday World, Robbie makes an impassioned plea in favour of the referendum being passed when the electorate goes to the polls on May 22nd. 

“Although I am currently working and living outside of the country, I have been following the commentary and debate on the upcoming Referendum on same-sex marriage,” wrote Keane. 

“While, unfortunately, I will not be home to vote on May 22, I am strongly supporting a ‘YES’ vote. 

“Most of us will have friends or family who, up to now, have been denied to right to marry their loved ones or have been made to feel excluded because of their sexuality. To me, this feels wrong,” he continued. 

“I am a very proud Irishman and it is important to me that our country does, and is seen to, treat all of its citizens on an equal footing. 

“As a sportsman, fairness is key. My own personal view is that changing our Constitution on this issue is the right decision as it will give people the choice and opportunity to marry, irrespective of the fact that they may wish to marry someone of the same gender.” 

He added: “Marriage equality is an easy answer for me and will show the world that Ireland is a compassionate country that recognises and accepts diversity, and most importantly treats its’ citizens equally. 

“The rules of the game should be the same for all, no matter what team is right for you.” 

Keane’s words in support of marriage equality rights for gay people are particularly significant given he works in a sport where homophobia is a major issue.  

His current LA Galaxy team-mate, football star Robbie Rogers, came out as gay in 2013 and subsequently announced his retirement from football. But he continues to play and was later signed by the high-profile US team. 

Rogers is one of just a tiny number of players who are openly gay in football.

“Life is simple when your secret is gone,” he has since said. “Gone is the pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret.” 

Keane’s words in support, sent to Sunday World with thanks to Tony Hickey, are certain to bolster the campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the crucial final days leading up to the referendum. 

In football, players feel they must keep their sexuality secret in an effort to avoid being the target of homophobic chants from the terraces. 

Last year in the UK it was revealed that at least eight professional players have told colleagues that they’re gay, but have not gone public for fear of a backlash from soccer supporters. 

Seven of those players told the Professional Footballers’ Association that their reasons for not going public was not the reaction from the dressing room or club, but potential response from football supporters and the media. 

Keane is one of the most successful players and the top goalscorer in Republic of Ireland history.