Spain women's national team goalkeeper Lola Gallardo [she/her], 28, has spent the bulk of her club career with Atletico Madrid, with a brief spell at Olympique Lyon, where she won the UEFA Women's Champions League. She competed at the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women's World Cups.
What was the 'coming out to myself' process like for you?
I've had a story, and a family, who have made it very easy for me, which is how I think it should be. At the end of the day they saw that I was happy, and I think that's what life is all about, being happy with yourself, and the people around you loving you how you are. So I'm one of those lucky people who have such a good story, which not everyone has.
Did you have a specific reason for coming out to the media/public, rather than keeping your private life private?
No, because it's my life and I decided to live like that. I like to show people how happy I am, and I think that, being a public figure, it's important for other people who don't have it so easy, or who aren't so clear about things. They can see that we're normal people, we love just like anyone else, and that it's important to be able to feel good about yourself.
Has coming out impact your career and opportunities at all?
No. In, in football, if you're a good footballer, it doesn't have an impact at all if in your private life you like someone else. I think we have to be professionals, both footballers and the clubs that we're at, and they have to give us the opportunity. If I perform on the pitch I have to play, and if I don't, it doesn't matter if I'm into boys or girls.
How has your sport changed with regard to the LGBTQ+ community during your career?
I think people, and life, are moving forwards. It's true that 10 or 15 years ago it wasn't possible for so many people -- not just for you to be in a same-sex relationship, but for girls to play football at all. People were surprised, they didn't understand. Fortunately, all of humanity is moving forwards. Let's hope it carries on like that and is viewed as the natural thing it is.
What is the most rewarding, and perhaps unexpected, part of being out?
I'd say that the opportunities are there for people who are attracted to the same sex in this sense, to be seen. There are some brands which are looking for that, because they want to know our stories. I think little by little it's becoming more normalised, which is how it should be. It doesn't have to be news. The day that it isn't news that two people of the same sex are together, life will be much better for it.
What would your advice be to folks who are struggling with their identity?
In the end, we have to live our own lives, we shouldn't have to stop doing things to make anyone else happy. Let's not get that wrong. I think that's a rule in life for everyone. Be happy, be true to yourself, and respect everyone else.
When debating coming out in your mind, what were your worst - and best - case scenarios? And did either come to pass?
I was clear about how I wanted to live my life, and in the best case scenario people would love me how I am, and in the worst case scenario they wouldn't. The people who love me how I am -- talking about individuals, clubs, national teams -- are the ones who are worth it. Those that don't, aren't in my life.
Did you ever feel any pressure, either internally or from speculating fans, to be a role model or an ambassador for the queer community? And is that something you embrace now?
I feel very comfortable because I haven't stopped being myself. When you aren't playing a role, or when you aren't forcing anything, it happens by itself. I haven't had that kind of pressure, but I do like being a person who people can look at and make their life a little bit easier or better. So I tell my story, I'm really proud of my life story, and I wish everyone was.
Read Lola Gallardo's interview in Spanish HERE