Gary Lineker wants to see a Premier League player come out as gay during the Qatar World Cup to send a strong message to a host nation where homosexuality remains a crime.
The former England striker Lineker told the Daily Mirror he knows of two gay Premier League players, saying they had been “very close” to coming out before now.
“It would be great if one or two of them came out during the World Cup. It would be amazing,” Lineker said. “I know for a fact that some have been very close and contemplated it. There’s a couple I know, but obviously it’s not for me to say who they are.”
Jake Daniels of Blackpool and the Australian Josh Cavallo of Adelaide United are the highest-profile current male players to have come out. Asked why more had not followed, Lineker said: “Fear. Fear of the unknown, I imagine. Perhaps they are worried what their teammates might think, although they probably already know. It seems insane that it should even be a thing.
“People say: ‘Yeah, but the crowds.’ And I say: ‘Well the crowds chant anyway.’ You’re always going to get a few idiots. But it’s easy for me to say as I’m not in that position.”
Lineker had hoped Cavallo and Daniels would prompt other players to come out, and suggested the first Premier League player to do so would make themselves more marketable.
“I was hoping, because there are lots of players that are having to live a lie,” he said. “I’m sure it’s very difficult. But I think what we’ve seen so far is that the feedback and the response, it will be incredibly positive.
“If I were an agent of a big footballer, if I knew one of my players was gay, if he was a top player, I’d say: ‘Be the first big player.’ I mean, as an agent, thinking in terms of promotion and stuff, you’re going to be huge.”
The television presenter said the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup would cover the controversy around Qatar as a host nation – including its record on human rights and the migrant workers who built the stadiums.
“I’m sure we’ll do it on the first night,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not going to do it in every buildup to every game, but of course we’ll talk about it and openly.”