Rugby star Ben Cohen announces retirement to focus on anti-homophobia initiative

Ben Cohen, the 32 year-old England star, has turned down the chance to prolong his playing career and will instead devote his energies to the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation.

Cohen, who believes he could have played on for another two years, said “to be honest, I would never have imagined my career was going to move in this direction after my professional rugby career, but here we are – it’s happening”.

"I have reached the top in my sport", he said. "It has been an incredible journey and has put me in the privileged position I am in today to be able to work on these exciting new projects through the StandUp Brand. As athletes, it is not enough just to have strong bodies. We must have strong characters and use our voices to support those who need and deserve it."

Cohen made his professional debut at 17 and first appeared for England in 2000. Known for being quick and powerful, he was a central part of the England team that won the World Cup in 2003.

In recent years, Cohen has developed his role as an advocate of equality and particularly gay rights. His latest project is aimed at helping those in the lesbian and gay community who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.

Cohen's new role complements his status as a gay icon. Although he is married with twin daughters, the star has a huge gay following. This has not been harmed by his model looks and his appearance in calendars and magazine shoots wearing nothing more than his underpants.

"It is incredibly exciting and we have so many plans in the pipeline to be able to make a difference," he said. "I see this as the beginning of my new career and I have much work to do."

Date: 15 May 2011


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