Gay ex-Socceroo Stephen Laybutt is being remembered as a “highly talented player and gentle and kind person” following his death at age 46.
Stephen debuted in domestic soccer in 1995 and played for the national team between 2000 and 2004. He also played for Australia’s Olyroos at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In 2008, Stephen’s career was cut short by injury.
On Sunday (January 14), police found Stephen Laybutt’s body in bushland on the NSW north coast a day after he was reported missing. Police aren’t treating the death as suspicious.
The gay ex-Socceroo’s death prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes from sports bodies and his former soccer clubs.
“Stephen’s journey from domestic leagues to the international stage exemplified dedication, skill, and the spirit of Australian football,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson said.
“His contributions to the Socceroos, especially during the OFC Nations Cup victories and the Sydney 2000 Olympics, have left a lasting legacy in our football community.
“We remember Stephen not just for his accomplishments on the field but also for his character and his positive influence on those around him.
“He will forever be remembered as part of the Socceroos family and deeply missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Former Socceroo Craig Foster also remembered Stephen as a “gentle, kind person and a highly talented player”.
“Terrible news for the football community and particularly the Socceroos fraternity who have lost a brother,” he wrote online.
View this post on Instagram
Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time pic.twitter.com/L8UovQqLLz
— Professional Footballers Australia (@thepfa) January 15, 2024
Stephen Laybutt came out as gay after retiring from soccer
After he retired from football, Stephen Laybutt came out as gay.
In 2021, just a few months after Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo came out, Stephen told the Sydney Morning Herald about his struggle with his sexuality.
“There was no way that I was ever going to come out [while I was playing],” he said.
“Everyone says your mum knows, your best friend knows… Nobody knew. It takes a fair bit of effort to hide like that.
“I had girlfriends; I thought I had to go down that path but you think, ‘How’s this going to work?’
“Then football goes and life moves on and you say to yourself, ‘Come on, get real’.
“Just lying to yourself all the time. That breaks you and you head down a path of self-destruction.”
He said life eventually “became easier” when he met his partner Michael in 2010. But the retired soccer player said hiding his sexuality had a “massive effect” on his career.
“I wish I’d played in a World Cup – but it was still a half-decent career,” he said.
For the latest LGBTIQA+ Sister Girl and Brother Boy news, entertainment, community stories in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagra