A gay Premier League star has said he is in therapy over fears of abuse from fans if he ever came out.
Speaking to The Sun, the unnamed footballer said: “It’s 2021 and I should be able to be free to tell everyone who I am.”
“But there are some fans on the terraces for whom it is still very much the 1980s”, he continued.
“I want to be open with people because it’s who I am and I am proud. But the truth is I will be crucified.
The player is said to have opened up to Amal Fashanu, niece of Justin Fashanu.
Fashanu made history as the first openly gay professional footballer in Britain, but committed suicide in 1998, eight years after coming out.
The unnamed footballer went on to discuss feelings that will be all too familiar to anyone who lived part of their life in the closet:
“When I play, I feel like the fans may guess and they are judging me,” he said.
“Am I coming across as camp? Can then tell from the clothes I wear off the pitch? It has had a terrible effect on me mentally. It’s terrifying.”
Fashanu’s niece, Amal, who set up a charity for tackling homophobia and racism in sport, revealed last year that two Premier League footballers shared with her that they had come out to close family and friends – but were too afraid to go public.
Speaking to The Sun, Amal said:
“In 2021, when we have never been so woke as a society, it feels like it should be the perfect time for a top-level player to come out, but the reality is that homophobia, especially online, is more prevalent than ever. We need to protect these players”.
Adding: “I am in constant dialogue with the FA about what can be done but, unfortunately, it’s an unprecedented situation so it’s hard to put in place measures for a situation that hasn’t yet occurred.”
Homophobia in football and in the stands is still a huge issue in 2021. Just last month, in September, a match was brought to a halt and players made to leave the pitch for 10 minutes when “offensive and discriminatory” homophobic chants started during a Cruz Azul and Monterrey match, as part of the Concacaf Champions League 2021.