England’s coach encourages gay soccer players to come out

Nov 4, 2022, 9:37 PM | Updated: Nov 5, 2022, 9:38 am
Brazil national soccer team's head coach Tite, top left, and England's head coach Gareth Southgate,...

Brazil national soccer team's head coach Tite, top left, and England's head coach Gareth Southgate, top right, watch from the stand during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

ROME (AP) — England coach Gareth Southgate hopes that gay soccer players “come out soon” because “it would have an enormous impact on society,” he said in an interview with an Italian newspaper published on Saturday.

“The teams and players wouldn’t have any problem with it,” Southgate told La Repubblica ahead of this month’s World Cup in Qatar. “They would accept and embrace their teammates after a coming out. But footballers are afraid of the reactions outside and from the fans.

“I experienced it with Thomas Hitzlsperger at Aston Villa: I didn’t think he was gay and when he announced it, it was something completely normal,” he said of the former Germany international, who came out as gay after he retired from playing.

Southgate and Hitzlsperger were teammates at Villa in the early 2000s.

“European teams have never been as tolerant, multicultural and multi-religious as they are today,” Southgate said in comments that were published in Italian. “Of course there will always be homophobes on the outside. But I hope gay players come out soon because it would have an enormous impact on society.”

Gay rights have become an issue for the World Cup since same-sex relations are criminalized in the conservative Gulf nation.

England will wear the “OneLove” anti-discrimination captain’s armband at the World Cup.

At least 10 European nations committed to promote inclusion and campaign against discrimination this season and eight of them have qualified for Qatar.

Southgate was asked if the armband initiative will be enough to raise awareness about human rights issues in Qatar, with the treatment of migrant workers who built venues for the World Cup a decade-long controversy.

“We need to be realists about the goals we want to achieve,” the coach said. “I’ve been to Qatar three times and all the workers have told me clearly that they want the World Cup because it’s a vehicle for change.

“We need to respect a country with a different culture, religion and traditions. But at the same time we have the responsibility and the possibility to shed light on aspects that can be improved. That could make a big difference.”

England plays Iran in its opening match in Qatar on Nov. 21 before also facing the United States and Wales in Group B.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Christian Pulisic of the United States is dejected after the World Cup round of 16 soccer match bet...
Associated Press

US knocked out of World Cup, loses to the Netherlands 3-1

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Memphis Depay and Daley Blind scored in the first half and Denzel Dumfries added a late goal as the Netherlands eliminated the United States from the World Cup with a 3-1 victory Saturday that advanced the Dutch to the quarterfinals. Second-half substitute Haji Wright cut the U.S. deficit to 2-1 […]
1 day ago
South Korea's team players wait for the result of their group's match between Ghana and Uruguay, af...
Associated Press

New 48-team World Cup format fails to impress Poland coach

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The high drama of split-screen tension during simultaneous matches in the final set of World Cup group games is now a thing of the past. The next tournament in 2026 will feature 48 teams — 16 more than this year in Qatar — and use a different format that will do […]
1 day ago
Poland's Robert Lewandowski, center, works out with teammates during a training session in Doha, Qa...
Associated Press

World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Rested France faces Poland

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — France, the reigning World Cup champions, has been warned by coach Didier Deschamps not to underestimate Poland and star Robert Lewandowski in the knockout round Sunday. Les Blues breezed through the group stage and clinched a spot in the round of 16 with a game to spare, which allowed Deschamps to […]
1 day ago
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, talks to teammates during an NFL football practi...
Associated Press

Rust issues? Deshaun Watson’s long layoff could be factor

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Aside from battling the Houston Texans and some fans who are likely to taunt him, Deshaun Watson may have another not-so-visible opponent in his first NFL regular-season game in nearly two years. Rust. 700 days worth of it. Watson will make his long-awaited debut Sunday for the Cleveland Browns after serving […]
1 day ago
Spain's head coach Luis Enrique reacts during a training session at Qatar University, in Doha, Qata...
Associated Press

Spain coach Luis Enrique opens up at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Bicycle rides. Streaming sessions. Instagram posts. Honest talks about sex, politics and his late daughter. Luis Enrique, not long ago seen as one of the most uptight coaches in soccer, has opened up at the World Cup. He has been more accessible than ever in Qatar, showing his lighter side and […]
1 day ago
FILE - Uruguay's Luis Suarez, right, stops the ball with his hands to give away a penalty kick duri...
Associated Press

Suarez a World Cup great for Uruguay, ‘the devil’ for others

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The day before what was likely his last World Cup game, Luis Suarez walked into the room, sat down and placed himself squarely in the spotlight — again. Then a Ghanaian journalist let it all out: Ghana wants to “retire you,” he said to the Uruguay forward. You are “the devil […]
1 day ago
England’s coach encourages gay soccer players to come out