FORMER MIDDLESBROUGH BOSS Gareth Southgate says that players would accept having a gay team-mate, but fans of the sport could not be expected to be so open minded.
Southgate was speaking after the Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard wrote in a blog that potential gay footballers ‘need a hero’ to look up to.
“I’m sure there might be some reaction from crowds, but within dressing rooms I think it would be accepted,” Southgate responded.
A number of high profile male and female athletes have come out over the last few years, but in football the only player to have revealed their homosexuality, since Justin Fashanu in 1990, has been Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen.
“It will take someone who is brave enough to be open and honest,” added Southgate.
“Players mix with players of different nationalities, races and religions so I don’t see it being an issue in the dressing room.
“We can’t control the reaction of all supporters, so unfortunately there will always be a adverse reaction to parts of society. But the honest answer is that we don’t know until somebody steps forward.”
In his blog entry, Lindegaard had said that the perceived homophobic attitude of many supporters turned gay footballers off the idea of coming out.
“Homosexuals are in need of a hero,” he said.
“They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality. But homosexuality in football is a taboo subject and the atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough.
“As a footballer, I think a homosexual colleague would be afraid of the reception he could get from the fans, but my impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual.
“The problem for me is that a lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserve to be compared with modern society’s development in the last decades.
“While the rest of the world has been more liberal, civilised and less prejudiced, the world of football remains stuck in the past when it comes to tolerance.”