The Premier League footballer had to seek support for his mental health over his fears about coming out. (Envato Elements)
A gay Premier League footballer is in therapy over his fears that he will be “crucified” by fans if he were to come out publicly.
The unnamed player looked for mental health support over his crippling fear that football fans on opposing teams will hurl abuse at him for being gay.
He opened up about his experience to Amal Fashanu, niece of Britain’s first openly gay footballer Justin Fashanu.
Fashanu made history when he came out as gay in 1990, but he tragically died by suicide just eight years later.
Since then, his niece Amal has dedicated herself to inclusion and diversity in sport, and she set up the Justin Fashanu Foundation to make things better for queer footballers. She is now in contact with a number of Premier League players who are secretly gay and fear public reactions if they were to come 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.”
He continued: “But there are some fans on the terraces for whom it is still very much the 1980s.
“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.”
Gay Premier League footballer worries he’s coming across as ‘camp’
The footballer went on to open up about his fears that fans will perceive him as gay and assume his sexuality before he has had a chance to come out.
“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.”
The footballer’s candid admission comes just a year after two Premier League footballers told Amal Fashanu that they had come out to close family and friends – but that they were too afraid to come out publicly.
Speaking to The Sun, Fashanu said it “should be the perfect time” for a Premier League footballer to come out as gay.
“But the reality is that homophobia, especially online, is more prevalent than ever,” she said. “We need to protect these players.”
She continued: “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.”
In May 2020, Amal Fashanu told The Sun that at least five famous footballers in the UK are gay and are still in the closet.
The campaigner said at the time that she expects a player will come out in the next five years, but she said all of them are afraid of being the first.
“No one wants to be the first,” she said. “In their minds these guys are trapped, ashamed. They think society won’t accept it so instead they live their lives in secret.
“It’s sad that this has to happen. But they would be a trailblazer.”