English football ready for first gay player, says Craig Bellamy
Last Updated: 23/11/17 2:10pm
Craig Bellamy believes English football is ready for the first player to come out as gay, but believes the "trophy" of being the first to do so could be putting people off.
Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign activity, which runs from November 24 to December 3, will see players, clubs and fans from across football showing their support for LGBT inclusion in sport.
Although former Leeds and LA Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers came out while announcing his retirement before soon returning to the game in MLS in 2013, no active player has done the same in England, and Bellamy told The Debate show on Sky Sports he hopes that will change soon.
"I believe the players are ready for it," he said. "I don't think players will be a problem and as a coach now, it certainly wouldn't be a problem for me.
"I can see the media being fine with it, but there must be a problem for a player not to feel comfortable to come out.
"My brother is gay - he's a couple of years older than me, and I could not be more proud of him. It was right for him. If a player was going through something similar at a younger age, I feel I would be understanding because I was there to watch it with my brother.
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"A lot of footballers have brothers or sisters who are going through the same situation. It's not uncommon."
Asked by host Geoff Shreeves whether it might be because of the "trophy-hunt" nature of being the first, Bellamy agreed.
Bellamy said: "Maybe that is what is putting some players off. What I wouldn't want is a player who was hiding it and felt he couldn't be himself."
Brighton full-back Liam Rosenior said football has a vital role to play in wider society in embracing LGBT culture.
"We are role models," he said. "The first people I looked up to as a boy were footballers. If we had someone who was gay, and openly gay and proud of that playing at the highest level, there are so many children, teenagers and adults who would look up to that player.
"It's not down to that individual, it's down to the culture we set within our dressing rooms and also within the media. The media have a huge part to play because having a gay player shouldn't be anything, it should just be who they are and the best way to react to that for it not to be anything in the news.
"If a player came out in our dressing room, I honestly, hand on heart, think that it wouldn't make a difference, but at the same time, there must be something. I hope that in a quick period of time there will be players who can be themselves, because we're the most popular sport in the world.
"We are footballers and products of society and society has moved on and things are improving and football has to mirror that. When it happens, we have to support it."
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Bellamy said the reaction of fans would be crucial, but believes any homophobic chanting would be quickly seized upon by the majority of supporters.
He said: "I'd be interested to see if there was a crowd that got on his [that player's] back, because I believe other clubs and other supporters all around football would get on those supporters' backs and they would be made to look very, very stupid."