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8 Nov, 2021 12:25

Gay Aussie footballer ‘scared for his life’ if he plays at Qatar World Cup

Gay Aussie footballer ‘scared for his life’ if he plays at Qatar World Cup

Football's first openly gay player, Josh Cavallo, has expressed fears over potentially appearing for the Australian national team at the World Cup in Qatar next year, given the Arab nation's laws against homosexuality.

Cavallo came out via the social media channels of his club Adelaide United and his own personal account last month, earning worldwide approval from figures such as FC Barcelona's Gerard Pique and ex-England star Gary Lineker.  

READ MORE: ‘You are helping us move forward’: Barca ace Pique praises Josh Cavallo as Aussie becomes first male pro to ‘come out’ as gay

"It’s been a journey to get to this point in my life, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come out," Cavallo said as part of his revelation.

"I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I’m glad I can put that to rest."

Already representing his country at U-20 level, Cavallo was recently probed on The Guardian's Today in Focus on how he would feel if called up to the senior Australian national team to play the Qatar World Cup, considering the country's strict laws on homosexuality.

"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," the footballer said.

"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?" Cavallo added rhetorically.

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Qatari officials have previously tried to quell fears over gay and female fans, with 2022 World Cup chief executive Nasser al-Khater previously saying: “I would like to assure any fan, of any gender, (sexual) orientation, religion, race to rest assured that Qatar is one of the most safe countries in the world – and they’ll all be welcome here.”

Al-Khater has even said that rainbow flags would not be removed from stadiums, but added that “just like our culture is a culture of this world, we also expect people to respect our culture. I think there's a balance and there's a feeling that people will respect people from everywhere.”

However, with Qatar finishing in second on a "danger index" put together as part of a travel guide for LGBT tourists, such fears were not allayed by then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter when the country won the rights to host the showpiece tournament in 2010.

"I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities," the disgraced figure said with a grin when probed on advice for gay people who wished to see the World Cup, though he did later apologize and stressed that nobody will be prohibited from attending matches based on sexuality alone.

Meanwhile, Cavallo has claimed that a series of unidentified fellow professional footballers still in the closet have contacted him for advice on following his lead and coming out.

"There are people who have reached out to me in confidentiality and said: 'I’m struggling with the same thing Josh,' and they’re professional footballers too," revealed the 21-year-old.

"And look, it’s something you can’t rush. [I say] you want to be yourself, and at the end of the day I wasn’t happy and now look at me, I’m honestly on top of the world."

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