Adelaide United star, Josh Cavallo, has admitted that he would be “scared” to play in the 2022 Qatar World Cup due to his sexuality. The footballer who has previously represented Australia at Under-20 level, came out as gay at the end of October, making him one of the world’s only out professional male players.
— Josh Cavallo (@JoshuaCavallo) October 27, 2021
After coming out, Josh Cavallo received a huge influx of support from fans and footballers alike, but now that he is faced with the possibility of playing in the World Cup in Qatar, he admits that he would be “scared” to compete there.
The tournament has faced an onslaught of criticism due to the country’s human rights issues. Male homosexuality is illegal under Qatari law, punishable by fines, up to seven years imprisonment, and even the death penalty for those of Muslim faith.
Speaking to the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast, Cavallo said, “I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that.
“And that saddens me. At the end of the day, the World Cup is in Qatar, and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country, and to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate – is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?”
In 2013, the head of Qatar’s World Cup bid team, Hassan al-Thawadi, said that everyone would be welcome at the competition, provided there are no public displays of affection, as it “is not a part of [their] culture and tradition.” In December 2020, organisers said that they would also allow LGBTQ+ flags to be displayed in World Cup stadiums.
However, FIFA has still faced backlash for continuing to allow countries, such as Qatar, to host these major tournaments, subjecting queer players and fans alike to potentially unsafe environments. In 2010, ex-FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, said that gay people travelling to the 2022 World Cup “should refrain from any sexual activities,” a statement which he later apologised for.
It took Josh Cavallo six years to muster up the courage to come out, and since, he says he has been contacted by several others in the same position. “There are people who have reached out to me in confidentiality and said: ‘I’m struggling with the same thing Josh,’ and they’re professional footballers too. And look, it’s something you can’t rush.
“[I say] ‘You want to be yourself, and at the end of the day I wasn’t happy and now look at me, I’m honestly on top of the world’. They like the sound of that and they say: ‘Josh, I haven’t experienced that before and I want to,’ and I say: ‘It’s in your hands, it’s your journey and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t think there was but there definitely is.’”
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