The Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard has said gay footballers are "in need of a hero" if the game is to successfully combat homophobia.
Lindegaard, one of English football's more eloquent thinkers, passionately shared his views on his Tumblr blog as the domestic game waits for its first player to come out since Justin Fashanu.
Fashanu confessed he was gay in 1990 but tragically committed suicide eight years later. Two months prior to his death in May 1998, Maryland police had questioned him after a 17-year-old boy accused Fashanu of sexual assault.
Cricketer Steve Davies, former Wales rugby player Gareth Thomas and ex-basketballer John Amaechi are the only living British sportsmen confirmed as gay.
“Gay football is a taboo topic, we footballers would rather not have anything to do with it," Lindegaard wrote. "The environment is hard both on the field among the players and in the stands among the spectators. The mechanisms are fundamentally primitive, and is often expressed through a classic stereotypical idea of a real man as brave, strong, aggressive and fair. Not exactly a picture a football fan will associate with gays.
"As a footballer, I think first and foremost, a gay colleague will fear the reception among fans. My general impression is that players would accept a homosexual without major problems. Most would come with a cocky remark in the direction of ‘as long as they do not go in the bathroom at the same time with me’."
Lindegaard has used his blog to support gay footballers
A Denmark international, the 28-year-old is acutely aware of the likelihood of gay players in his own country. Around 12% of Danish men are gay, but out of 1,000 members of the Danish Players' Association not one has come out, with the macho environment of football and unforgiving spectators cited as reasons why.
Lindegaard is critical of the Danish FA's inactivity against homophobia, unlike its Dutch counterpart. Their 'Gay? There's Nothing Queer About It' advert has generated praise across the continent.
Two years ago, Professor Ellis Cashmore and Dr Jamie Cleland (the former Coventry City goalkeeper) gauged whether gay footballers needed more support. Compiled within the Staffordshire University survey were more than 3,500 fans, players, referees and other officials, with the majority of respondents believing clubs and agents are unfairly pressuring gay players into silence.
The information was subsequently passed on to the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League. However none of the aforementioned organisations responded to Professor Cashmore.
The PFA did however request professional footballers to appear in a campaign video against homophobia last year, however players refused because they feared being ridiculed for taking a stand against one of sport's most stubborn taboos, according to The Independent. Instead the FA produced a generic viral campaign video which was unsurprisingly pulled.
Lindegaard added: "To turn a blind eye only indicates that one is not recognising that there is a problem. Of course there is a problem if young homosexuals, who love football, have to quit the sport because they feel excluded.
"That is in every way an unpleasant trend that does not belong in a modern and liberal society. Any discrimination towards people is and should be totally unacceptable, whether it is about skin colour, religion, sexuality etc. Homosexuals are in need of a hero. They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality."
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