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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Gay soccer player David Testo hopes to hit main goals
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2012-01-25

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David Testo might have played his last professional soccer match. His cleats might be hung up and his grass-stained uniform washed for the final time.

Testo has bigger goals to score.

Retirement is now certainly a possibility, at age 30, "and it doesn't terrify me at all because I've been playing soccer since I was 5; it's been my whole life, including the past 10 professionally," he said. "Soccer has gotten me to this point where I can share my story and maybe help others; I find that more important than playing another year."

Testo, who lives in Montreal, came out Nov. 10, 2011, in an interview on French Canadian public broadcaster Radio Canada. He said that his family, friends, teammates and team management were aware of his sexual orientation.

He was a superstar at TC Roberson High School in North Carolina, earning state player of the year accolades in 1998. He then played two seasons at the University of South Carolina, tallying 6 goals and 11 assists in 33 games. Testo transferred to the University of North Carolina as a junior, leading the Tar Heels to the National Championship.

He also was a two-time All-ACC second team honoree at the University of North Carolina after scoring 11 goals and having six assists as a junior, and seven goals and nine assists as a senior.

Testo then started kicking professionally, although he was not drafted in the 2003 Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft, despite experience with youth U.S. national teams.

Ultimately, Testo signed with the Richmond Kickers and claimed the A-League's 2003 Rookie of the Year award. Testo played 33 matches for the Columbus Crew in 2004-05, then moved to the Vancouver Whitecaps. He played for the Montreal Impact from 2007-2011.

Will he play professionally again?

"That's a good question, " Testo said. "I think all of this has happened at the right moment in my life.

"Sure, I could push to play a couple more years, but I've had quite a few injuries, and I just feel all of those doors are closing while so many other doors are opening. I really want to follow the path that is laid out for me. A lot of people are encouraging me to [continue to] play, and that by playing I would make an even bigger difference, but that might be someone else's role in life, not mine.

"I just hope to be as happy in five years as I am right now," he said.

Testo had his best professional season in 2009, playing for Montreal in the 11-team, top-tiered First Division of the United Soccer Leagues (USL). Montreal, ironically, battled Testo's former team, Vancouver, in the finals—and Montreal wound up winning its third USL Championship, which was Testo's second USL Championship. Testo also earned the Giuseppe-Saputo Trophy, presented to the Impact's Most Valuable Player.

"I really want to influence the sports community and help eliminate the stigma of gays in sports," Testo said. "I really hope that one day when someone does come out as gay in one of the major [team] sports that it isn't even newsworthy at all. Hopefully it eventually won't matter if you're a sports player at the professional level and also gay."

Testo was released by Montreal Oct. 12, 2011, about a month before coming out—although it was not because he is gay. Testo said he's been out to teammates, friends and family for about five years.

When he told his Montreal coach, Testo said it was "such a relief," because he was, at the time, a team captain and he didn't know how his coach was going to react. But the coach just laughed, said he knew, said it was not a big deal. "I was very well accepted here; I think that's why I stayed here after won championship in 2009 and was the MVP, [despite] offers to go to the [more prestigious] MLS."

Testo said his life has been a whirlwind since coming out. He's gotten emails of support from, literally, around the world. He's heard from fans, friends, former teammates, and plenty of strangers.

All have been supportive.

The response, he said, "has not been anything like what I expected.

"When I did [the coming-out interview,] I didn't even think I'd do a follow-up interview," he said, laughing. "But since [that first interview], I haven't stopped [granting] interviews.

"I want to reach as many people as I can in hopes of affecting positive change on people."

Testo's coming out has been covered by ESPN and many other mainstream media outlets worldwide.

I was prepared for the fallout [from the coming-out interview] to go in any direction; I have a solid support group of friends in Montreal, so I really wasn't worried. I knew it was strong enough to withstand anything that might not have been positive," he said. "I really wasn't expecting [my coming-out announcement] to hit worldwide, but it certainly has, and hopefully it created a thought or a movement of change in a positive direction.

"My whole life since that day has been on the phone, [answering] emails, doing interviews. I cannot believe the response that story got; it's overwhelming.

"I thought I'd do that [coming-out] interview, and then just go back to leading my normal life. But I quickly realized that was not going to happen."

Testo said the biggest surprise since coming out is the "overall effect that it's had."

He admitted that, at first, some in his family took his coming-out pretty hard, pretty harshly because they went from having to deal with him just being gay privately to now being gay for the world to know. "It's been a process for them, and for me," he said.

"I'm proud of myself for what I'm doing, and I'm happy. [Having come out] brings a lot of meaning into my life. Maybe everything in my life was leading up to this point, for a purpose."

Testo said his driving force to come out was to reach the younger generation, to tell them that, yes, it is OK to be gay. "I wanted them to know that there are other people out there like them," he said.

However, Testo admitted he instead has had more responses from the older generation—those in their 50s, 60s and 70s—including random people on the street.

"Everything is really going in a positive direction for me," Testo said. "I want to help players struggling with this issue, so they know they will have a place to go or someone to talk to, so they can feel safe and secure, so they know they aren't the only one. That's one thing I wish I had when I was younger, even as young as 15 and 16 years-old."

Testo, who said he's all smiles these days with his private life, too. He has had four serious, long-term relationships, starting with Shane Landrum of TV's Road Rules fame. The two dated in college.

"I've found a little bit more about myself in each relationship, helping me become the man who I am today," he said. "I think I was attracted to [Landrum] because, maybe subconsciously, being around him and being with someone who already was in the public eye would kind of force me to come out to my friends and others.

"Dating [Landrum] forced me to open up [about my sexual orientation] to a lot of people who I probably never would have."

Despite the media spotlight Testo has walked in since coming-out, Testo said he truly is not a spotlight kind of guy. In fact, he considers himself, "a really, really private homebody."

When Montreal won the league championship in 2009, and even though he was a team standout, he rarely was asked for quotes—but that was fine with him. The local media always seemed to want to talk to players in French, he said, laughing, and he did speak fluent French.

Testo enjoys yoga and spending time with his two dogs. He loves to laugh, and wishes more of his interviews of late were a bit more light-hearted, although he knows coming out and gays in sports are, or can be, serious subjects. He likes reading at home, but also could be seen dancing at local clubs until 3 a.m.

So who is the real David Testo?

He said that he is "generally, a very positive, happy person."


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