After Coming Out, Footballer Jakub Jankto Can Now Play 'Without Hiding'
Emell Adolphus READ TIME: 2 MIN.
In February, international footballer Jakub Jankto came out, and now he says he is free to play the sport he loves "without hiding."
"Whenever I opened TikTok or Instagram, the first video was about me," Jankto told BBC Sport about the aftermath of his decision to come out. "Everyone is speaking about you! I knew it would be like that for the first two, three weeks, but I needed time to myself to breathe for a little bit, to recover."
He added, "When you receive thousands, maybe millions, of messages from people saying they appreciate me and thank me, it makes me really happy, and the people were amazing."
But it does turn the pressure on, Jankto said. "It's not easy to be the first guy at my level who says: 'Yeah, I'm gay'."
Added the athlete: "The first time we played England, it was not a good game for us."
Playing for Czech Republic, Jankto's team suffered a heavy loss against England in a 2019 European Championship qualifier. But he's come a long way from dreaming about playing football in his youth to now being an international star.
"Playing for your national team is the biggest thing you can do, and getting into the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 with the Czech Republic is the biggest success I've had personally, as well as for us as a team," said Jankto.
That is, until he decided to come out.
"You have to live your life like you want," said Jankto. "I was 13 or 14 years old when I knew that something was... not unnatural, but different."
About hiding his sexuality as he developed into a pro footballer, Jankto said football is "still a little bit homophobic."
"So I was scared when I was 18 or 19 and next to other guys and couldn't open messages on WhatsApp, because I always had the fear that someone might see a message or a photo from a guy," he said.
But now Jankto has put that behind him, and he says not being himself was holding back his performance on the field.
"Playing professional football is a dream of mine, and I'm always searching for ways to get better," he said. "I also thought to myself: 'Well look, Jakub, you are a professional footballer, but you have your life that you have to live like you want.' And for me, that was fundamental."
He added, "I'm really happy that I can play without hiding or being scared."