The Players Pod: Identity and the ‘escape’ of football – ‘I could actually be myself’

For so long, Angie Beard hid who she was. Football provided an escape and a chance for the Western United star to mask her true identity in her early years.

But there is no more hiding. The three-time Australia international is now open with her sexuality.

Like many others in the LGBTI+ community, getting to this point was not easy for Beard. Football, though, played a big role.

Ahead of this weekend’s A-Leagues Pride Celebration, and a Pride Cup doubleheader between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United on Sunday – launched in an effort to create a safer and more inclusive space for all in Australian football – the 2020-21 Liberty A-League champion joined host Robbie Cornthwaite on The Players Pod.

In season 2022-23, you can listen to Robbie weekly on his new KEEPUP podcast – The Players Pod, with Robbie Cornthwaite. He chats to Angie Beard, Andy Brennan, and Adelaide United captain Craig Goodwin as well as Melbourne Victory skipper Josh Brillante on the 16th episode. Listen below or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

“Football was a bit of an escape. Somewhere I could actually be truly myself and have friends, and people in my life who understood what I was going through,” Beard said.

“On the other side, trying to live your life, grow and become an adult and a fully-functioning person.

“In high school, I had to really hide that. High school, it could be a rough spot to be in and navigate these feelings and things that you really didn’t understand yet.

“Just having people in your life seeing you as one thing when you were really something else. There was a bit of an adjustment period there. Luckily for me I had friends at the time, partners at the time who were super supportive. In the rough times, you had people who you could lean on.

“It’s difficult to be feeling certain ways and live a certain life, and then having to try to hide a big part of yourself.”

Beard highlighted the impact of Western United teammate and Matildas star Chloe Logarzo.

“Her movement and the representation she brings to the game. I think players like that and people like that, in my personal experience, have really made it a little bit easier,” she said.

“Obviously it’s still a difficult situation to move around and find your truth and your way of life that you can identify with. In the women’s’ space, at the minute and in the past, has been fairly straightforward.

“Something I could express and experience in a way… I mean it was scary but I was able to still come forward and be able to who I am.”

‘It makes me feel more a part of everything’

Former A-Leagues forward Andy Brennan also joined Beard on The Players Pod.

Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo became the first active player in the Isuzu UTE A-League to come out as gay in 2021, after ex-Newcastle Jets player Brennan announced his sexuality while playing for Green Gully in NPLM VIC in 2019.

At the time, the 29-year-old was Australia’s first professional male footballer to come out while still playing football.

Brennan, who had spent two years with the Jets up until 2017, now calls South Melbourne home in the NPL and the 29-year-old wishes he had come out “sooner”.

“People treat me differently now definitely, but not in a bad way,” he reflected on The Players Pod. “It’s so open, my sexuality, in the club at South Melbourne, and in the change room.

People are so open and ask me questions. People ask if I’m seeing anyone. They make jokes that are like common jokes that you’ll find in any change room. Which is for me, really good because it makes me feel more a part of everything.

“I was fearful that wouldn’t be the case. I was fearful that I would see little subtle actions or reactions – not homophobia – but people would change what they’d do around me because of me coming out. I literally didn’t see any of that.

“The players I’ve played with have been amazing. To the point where they’ve really built my self-confidence up about who I am because it took a bit of time, even after coming out, it’s not like it fixes everything and all those years of hiding who you are, you suddenly can do what you like. You still have those fears that when you go into certain environments, people might think this or think that, or do this or do that.

“To have people almost be this beacon of light in terms of being proud of who you are for you is such a positive thing to have.”