Cleethorpes Town midfielder Liam Davis, an openly gay footballer, is urging other gay footballers to come out, saying they should not fear doing so.
While Davis admits receiving abuse from opponents, he says football’s attitudes to homosexuality are increasingly progressive.
“My advice to a young gay footballer at any level or any standard is just to be themselves,” Davis said (h/t ESPN FC). “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.”
“Footballers say things to try to get a reaction and that’s maybe why I’ve had a couple of comments,” Davis said. “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 teammates 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.”
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “We do not tolerate any kind of homophobic, racist or sexist behaviour, and we will always stand for values such as diversity, gender equality and social inclusion.”
Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, praised UEFA for addressing the issue of homophobia.
“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,” Powar said.
“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.”