Is football doing enough to tackle homophobia?

Josh Cavallo, Australian professional footballer for A-League club, Adelaide United, has come out at gay.

This announcement means that Cavallo is the only openly gay male professional player in the world. Although several footballers have come out after retiring, such as Aston Villa’s Thomas Hitzlsperger, very few elite male players have done so during their careers.

Branded as brave for being open about his sexuality, many have pointed out that for Cavallo, being his authentic self should not need to represent anything more. Former England player, Gary Lineker, tweeted: “It is absurd that coming out is a brave thing to do in football. It is though, and I am full of admiration for Josh for treading a path hopefully many others will follow.”

However, women players find themselves facing the opposite stigma, and their sexuality is assumed to be anything other than straight due the hypermasculine foundations of the sport.

Amal Fashanu, daughter of former footballer John Fashanu has also refuted claims that it is easier for female footballers to disclose their sexuality, ‘Women players often face the gay label just because they are playing the sport – even before they might have even considered their sexuality.’ With Stonewall’s ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign, there have been attempts to promote equality and inclusivity in the sport, alongside FIFA’s continued support by backing Pride-based football events and LGBT+ clubs.

However, there are still events that make footballers and fans alike feel unwelcome. With the decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a nation where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison, many members of the LGBTQ+ community might feel ostracised and prohibited from attending.

Qatar World Cup organisers have assured fans that they will not stop anybody from entering the country based on sexual orientation. However, this oversight suggests that rising homophobia in the sport is not being addressed.

It is hoped that football organisations do more to address these issues.

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Una Jones

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August 2022
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