Adelaide United left back Josh Cavallo, who came out as gay last month, has said he would be ‘scared’ to play at the World Cup in Qatar.
The 21-year-old became the only known current top-flight male football player in the world to come out as gay following his announcement.
The Australian received a wave of support from the football community after releasing an emotional and widely-praised video, saying he was done with feeling ashamed about his sexuality and the exhaustion of trying to live a ‘double-life’.
Football’s administrators have launched high-profile public campaigns in recent years embracing LGBT+ fans and culture.
But critics have slammed Fifa’s decision to award the World Cup to countries such as Russia, where homophobia has been called a ‘state‑sponsored’ project, and Qatar.
Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo (pictured left in action during an A-Leage match against Perth Glory) became the only known current top-flight football player in the world to come out as gay in October
Cavallo has now revealed that he would be afraid for his safety if he participated in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
‘I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that,’ he told the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast.
‘And that saddens me. At the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country, and to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate – is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?’
The 21-year-old player has admitted he would be afraid for his life if he participated in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Homosexual acts are banned under Qatari law and punishments range from at least a year to a decade in prison, with a 2019 ‘danger index’ rating Qatar as the second most dangerous place to visit for LGBT+ travellers.
Meanwhile, muslims in the country can be subjected to Sharia law that bans any sexual activity outside marriage, including homosexuality, with punishments ranging up to the death penalty.
Gay people could, therefore, face execution but several human rights reports have said there is no evidence to suggest this has happened.
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s new Saudi owners have been accused of trying to ‘sportswash’ the country’s human rights record, while the club’s sponsors have been criticised for ‘turning a blind eye to homophobia’ with their silence over the club’s takeover.
Newcastle were sold to a consortium made up of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media (pictured: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)
The takeover has been savaged, with Crystal Palace supporters protesting with a large banner
Following Cavallo’s announcement, former England striker and BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker led an outpouring of public support for the player, saying he is hopeful the player’s actions will ‘erase the fear others may have’ of coming out as gay.
‘It’s absurd that coming out is a brave thing to do in football,’ the former Tottenham and Barcelona star tweeted. ‘It is though, and I’m full of admiration for Josh for treading a path hopefully many others will follow.
‘I’m sure the overwhelming majority of football lovers will support him and erase the fear others may have.’
Barcelona and ex-Spain centre-back Pique also heaped praise on Cavallo, thanking him personally for his heartfelt video.
‘Hey @JoshuaCavallo, I don’t have the pleasure to know you personally but I want to thank you for this step that you take.
In a four-part Instagram statement (pictured above), Cavallo said: ‘I am proud to publicly announce that I am gay,’
‘The world of football is far behind and you are helping us move forward.’
Pique’s ex-Barcelona team-mate Antoine Griezmann meanwhile simply tweeted: ‘Proud of you @JoshuaCavallo,’ followed by a fist and heart emoji.
Despite football’s immense popularity worldwide only a few footballers have come out as gay, mostly after they retire to avoid the prospect of homophobic taunts from the terraces.
The first professional player to come out while still playing was Britain’s Justin Fashanu in 1990 but he never found acceptance in the game and tragically took his own life 1998.
A charity set up by Fashanu’s family last year released a letter from an unnamed gay player in the English Premier League which highlighted how little football’s culture had changed.
Cavallo, who has also played for fellow A-League side Western United and third-tier outfit Melbourne City NPL in Australia, said in his video: ‘There is something personal that I need to share with everyone. I am a footballer and I am gay.
‘Growing up I always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed – ashamed I would never be able to do what I love and be gay.
‘Coming out to my loved ones, my peers, friends, team-mates, and coaches has been incredible. The support I have received has been immense.
The Australian released a lengthy and emotional clip (left) on social saying he has been ‘hiding who he is’ and ‘living a double life’
‘I want to show people it is ok to be yourself and play football. If anything, you will earn more respect from people [by coming out].
The player said his situation was ‘an absolute nightmare’, adding: ‘I feel trapped and my fear is that disclosing the truth about what I am will only make things worse.’
David Beckham recently came under fire over reports he has signed a deal worth £150million over 10 years to become the face of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and an ambassador for the emirate.
His association with a country that has been accused of human rights violations, in particular over its attitudes towards women and gay people, caused him to be criticised.
The 46-year-old is said to have received reassurances that all fans will be treated well at the tournament before he agreed the £15m-a-year deal. However, the former England captain was still criticised for putting money ahead of his principles.
David Beckham is believed to have agreed a £150million deal to be an ambassador for Qatar