Against
homophobia!

Interview with PUMA CEO Bjørn Gulden about homosexuality in men's football and his former career as an athlete

March 24, 2021

Interview with PUMA CEO Bjørn Gulden about homosexuality in men's football and his former career as an athlete

March 24, 2021

German football culture magazine 11 Freunde (11 Friends) published an open letter to support football players COMING OUT in the Bundesliga. The German Football Association endorsed the letter and PUMA also supports this call. In an interview, our CEO Bjørn Gulden spoke about LGBTQIA+ 🏳️‍🌈 in football and his former career as professional football player.

 

I hope and believe that soon it will no longer matter in football who you are, where you come from or whom you love.

Bjørn Gulden, PUMA CEO

Bjørn, at PUMA we have a zero-tolerance-attitude when it comes to discrimination. When it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community, every sexual orientation is welcome at PUMA. You were a professional footballer yourself and also had a chat with the magazine “11 Freunde” about your experience. Was sexual identity and orientation discussed among players in the cabin at that time (in the 80s)?

Bjørn: Back then? No, not at all. Back then, the issue of origin played a major role, in my case the relationship between foreign players and Germans. This was mainly due to the fact that there were only limited positions for foreigners, a maximum of three. My friend Jörn Andersen even took on German citizenship at some point so that he wouldn’t take any of the seats away. We talked about that in the cabin. But not about topics such as homosexuality. At least not in a way that I could remember. But the topic of origin was present.

So you see a shift when it comes to sensitive topics? 

Bjørn: Yes, I think the handling of supposedly sensitive topics changes. The way teams deal with people’s sexual orientation will also change. My sons, who are now 20 years old and played at German football club VfL Bochum when they were young, grew up in completely multicultural teams. For them, just a generation later, it was completely normal that German children, Scandinavian children like themselves, Turkish children, Russian children, African children – that they all played together. Religion, skin color, origin, none of that was any longer an issue.

Our job as a company is to create the best conditions possible without building up pressure. The more diverse PUMA is, the better! Just be YOU.

At the moment there is not a single openly homosexual male football player in the Bundesliga. Why is men’s football lagging behind that much?

Bjørn: I don’t know, in all honesty. However, I am sure that the subject will soon be dealt with in a much more relaxed manner in football as well. In other words: I hope and believe that soon it will no longer matter in football who you are, where you come from or whom you love.

How did you end up in management after your career in sports?

Bjørn: I used to be a guy who liked to take on responsibility. For example, I have always been the captain of the youth national teams and also of my Norwegian clubs. After my career, I had to think about where the journey should go. One thing was certain: I wanted to somehow stay in the sports field. So I went to Adidas after my studies. There I learned management from the bottom up.
Back then, in the late eighties, the job was a little more adventurous than it is today. In China, for example, there were no hotels at all, so when we were visiting we slept in the factories for four weeks. That was really exciting. That I would end up in management at some point was not the declared goal. I just wanted to stay close to the sport. Later, when I was with a jewelry company for a few years, for example, I quickly realized that I lacked the emotional connection for the sports industry.

 

 

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