27-year-old Liam Davis, an openly gay soccer player, strongly urges sports stars not to worry about coming out.
The midfielder for Cleethorpes Town admits he’s been heckled and abused by opponents in the past, but he still believes the overall attitude to homosexuality in soccer has become more accepting.
As part of Uefa’s Equal Game campaign, the athlete shared his own experiences coming out and offered advice to younger players.
“My advice to a young gay footballer at any level or any standard is just to be themselves,” he says.
“Don’t over-worry and overthink things. I don’t think it will be as big an issue as you think.
I never once thought about football when I came out. It was just a case of: this is who I am and I think this is the time to tell people who I am.
But I would never, ever overthink it. And then football just fell into place. It was out of season at the time. I joined a new team, didn’t think about it and everything went on like normal.”
He believes gay soccer players can thrive, even if they occasionally face disparaging comments or antigay slurs.
“Footballers say things to try to get a reaction and that’s maybe why I’ve had a couple of comments,” he says.
“It doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it any better, but when you’re on the pitch I think that’s partly the reason why.
My team-mates have always backed me up.
When you’re playing, it is just another game. My sexual orientation has never been a thought when I’m playing football.
It has always been about just football. What we do on the pitch should stay on the pitch. What you do off the pitch is your life.”
To emphasize Uefa’s anti-discrimination stance, president Aleksander Ceferin said:
“We do not tolerate any kind of homophobic, racist or sexist behavior, and we will always stand for values such as diversity, gender equality and social inclusion.”
Piara Powar is the executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, and she praises Uefa for acknowledging homophobia in sport:
“The Uefa Equal Game film about Liam represents the first time that an international football governing body has addressed an issue that is still a taboo in many parts of Europe.
The film helps us all to understand that in football there is a place for all of us to be accepted whatever our background, and that homophobia and exclusion cannot be tolerated.”
h/t: The Independent