Source: news.sky.com : 2022-06-30 06:36:00 :
Josh Cavallo, who became the first openly gay male professional footballer last year, has spoken about his World Cup dreams and his willingness to compete in a country with heavily restricted gay rights.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, the 22-year-old also spoke about the support he has received from fellow footballers after coming out and his belief that other professionals will follow his lead.
This year’s winter World Cup will be held in Qatar – a country where Amnesty International has said women and LGBTQ+ people continue to face discrimination.
Asked whether he would agree to travel there to represent his home country of Australia in the tournament, Cavallo said: “‘I’d definitely go to the World Cup.
“I want to show it’s okay for everyone. It’s not just okay for Josh Cavallo because he’s a footballer and he’s protected, I want it to be okay for that everyday person.”
However, he said the prospect hasn’t come without concerns and he has questioned if his life would be in danger.
“It does concern me,” he said. “If I represent Australia at the World Cup – and I’m pushing for that – it would be an honour but at the same time, the laws clash.
“I want to do something really good in my career – I’ve always dreamed of playing for my country at the World Cup – but do I want my life to be in danger?”
The Adelaide United player – who was capped at U19 level by Australia but is yet to earn a call-up to the senior side – added: “It’s difficult and a bit sad. It’s hard to pick which one you want to do.”
Footballing icons sent messages of support
Despite his worries, Cavallo said he has been delighted by the reaction to his announcement about his sexuality, describing it as like the world gave him “a big hug”.
“I didn’t realise the impact my story would have on millions and millions of people around the world,” he said.
“It feels like a long time ago – it feels like five years ago for me because I live my days so fully now. It’s been absolutely incredible. I’m very happy and proud of myself that I can help these people better and evolve the game.”
Cavallo made the announcement back in October and received 700,000 messages within the first 30 minutes, including some from footballing icons.
Among them were AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard.
“When I was younger I woke up to watch them play early in the morning, so it’s nice to see these straight athletes reaching out and saying, ‘Hey Josh, it’s OK’,” Cavallo said.
‘I can be that role model that I didn’t have’
But while the interactions with global superstars have been welcomed, Cavallo said the real benefits of coming out have been the way he has been able to help other people.
“I can be that role model that I didn’t have,” said Cavallo.
“I want those kids out there – that little Josh that’s watching – to say, ‘Look at Josh Cavallo – he’s gay and he’s comfortable in his own skin’. That’s the message that I want to get across.”
He explained that he did receive some online abuse by a small number of Melbourne Victory supporters – Adelaide’s rivals – back in January but for every bad message, he got “10,000 good”.
Now, Cavallo is working with developers in Australia on software that will enable social media users to block discriminatory messages from being seen.
Earlier this year, teenage Blackpool striker Jake Daniels also announced he is gay, a moment Cavallo appears to be proud of.
“It’s really nice to see these people have somebody to turn to now, because that’s something I struggled with growing up. With football, there was no one I could reach out to, and I want to be that for someone,” he said.
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