Anton Hysén quietly became the second openly gay pro soccer jock in the U.S. earlier this year and did so in the most unlikeliest of places: The Deep South. Not that it's stymied his soccer skills or slowed down his prolific Instagram feed of sexy selfies.
The 23-year-old Hysén joined the roster of the Myrtle Beach Mutiny, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League. The move to the South Carolina beach town has come with a bit of culture shock for the English born, Swedish playing Hysén but that hasn't bothered him one bit. He's adjusted, or Myrtle Beach has adjusted to him.
“The thing I always say is be yourself and just be proud of who you are and never let nobody say what is right or wrong,” Hysén says. “Just do what you are going to do and be proud of who you are. Regardless of sports or what you do, just be proud of who you are.”
That's how Hysén approaches his sport and life, never shying away from showing off his tats in shirtless selfies – his arms include portraits of his parents, while “Rise Above” is inked on his neck – or treating being gay as just another line in his Wikipedia entry. And it all comes with a side of sexy, which we noted in 21 reasons to welcome soccer jock Anton Hysén to the South.
We caught up with Hysén in late May, ahead of the Mutiny's match against Gate City. The Mutiny won 3-2 but did so without Hysén, who was recovering from a high ankle sprain. During halftime, we chatted about the move to South Carolina, trying the gay nightlife, twerking and his affection for country music.
Has it been a culture shock to come to South Carolina?
It is pretty different from Sweden, to be honest. There's more religion here and a very, very big difference in culture here. I mean so far so good, everything is brilliant. People are really nice, the Southern hospitality. I've got to say I love it. It's a brilliant place, I can't complain. I haven't heard anything bad yet. It's actually really nice. I'm loving it here. I have great teammates and I'm just really, really blessed to be here.
So you've found a place to live?
I do live with a couple of teammates and we're having a good time. We live in an apartment just a couple of minutes away from the practice field. We're just having a great time together. Unfortunately, I'm injured at the moment. [He's since made his return to the field.] But I'm loving the time right now and I'm enjoying myself.
Have you had a chance to enjoy the beach?
Oh yeah. I've got a visa that says that I can't work in the country so basically what I do all day is chilling out before practice. I do get to the beach and I do enjoy myself and traveling around the whole neighborhood. And there's a lot yet that I haven't seen. I'm going to keep on traveling, I guess.
Has there been any difference being a gay player?
Not really. Some people are new to do it but I mean everyone that I've met so far is very open to it. Nobody really cares. I'm here to play football. I'm here to win. I'm here to take the title. People really don't care. We're all here for the same reason – to win the league and to just go on and win the tournament. People really don't care.
I did believe before I came over here that I thought it would be an issue for some people. But for myself, I don't really care. I'm here to do one thing – to win and perform on the pitch. That's my philosophy. At the end of the day, what you do on the pitch is what really matters not your private life. Everyone is really positive, everyone around the club as well.
The only difference is that it's a different culture and people are a little bit more religious but that doesn't bother me. I'm here to play. Me coming from another country, I need to respect that as well.
Have you had a chance to interact with the gay community in Myrtle Beach and enjoy the nightlife?
I've heard that there are a couple of clubs around the neighborhood but I haven't really looked around yet and I don't know when that is going to be. I've actually had players on the team say to me let's go out to a gay club, let's have a lot fun for you. I do respect that but we don't have to. I'll do whatever. I really don't know anything about the gay scene around here. It'll happen when it happens.
You've won a dance competition? So you've got some moves?
I do have a little bit of moves. People do over exaggerate it a little bit. When you do “Let's Dance,” you get a routine, which is like one minute and 30 seconds, which is the actual one minute and 30 seconds you will dance. So let's say you do one minute and 30 seconds of a salsa, that's all you know in salsa. You don't know more than that. I do know how to move but I don't know more than that. [Hysén won the seventh season of “Let's Dance 2012,” a Swedish television dance competition.]
Do you twerk?
I could try. I'm sure I could do it but I haven't really tried.
How did you get started with Instagram?
Actually, I was very, very anti-Instagram in the beginning. I was like who wants to see pictures of me? Who cares about that? Then I started and it just got bigger and bigger. I actually got it after “Let's Dance” because people were like you need to show pictures of what you do in your life. And I'm like do people really care? They were like people want to see what you do. Humble as I am, I was like alright I'll start one and see what happens. And it became bigger and bigger and now I actually enjoy it because I want to show people what you do in life. Everyone is different. It's been a good thing.
What's your daily routine?
We get a good night's sleep, then get some breakfast. If I don't have any events or charities during the day, I'll be at home taking it easy. I might do a pool session to get the body going, get some lunch and then practice starts at 7 every day. I need music every day. Music is a big thing for me. Get that going and then just go to practice.
What sort of music?
I listen to everything. The variety of my music is very open. American music, European, my cousins are from Croatia, so I listen to a lot of Balkan music – Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian and that kind of stuff. Not sure about opera, but if they had a good song, I'm really open to everything and that's how everyone should be – open to everything.
I mean I like a little bit of everything. I love country. Country is a big thing. I'm a very, very big Florida Georgia Line fan. I absolutely love country – nothing better than riding on a pickup truck when the sun goes down just listening to it. The only thing that is missing is probably a partner or a dog in the back. I do appreciate country a lot.
I do love country and wish I had a pickup truck. It's a little bit different in Sweden, getting a license is a little bit more difficult. But I do love country.
Are you single?
I am single. I've never really had a serious relationship and I just really take it as it is. If somebody would come into the life, I'll just to have wait for it. I don't really look for anything. It comes when it comes. If you keep looking, I guess you are going to be disappointed. It'll come one day when it comes. That's what I'm thinking. But definitely single at the moment.
Why all the ink?
I'm not even done yet. I'm going to do both arms, on my legs and calves. I do like ink. I've got “rise above” on my neck. That is one of the most important tattoos because regardless of whatever happens in your life, people should just rise above it and be a better person.