Nine months after coming out, Josh Cavallo, the first openly gay player in men’s professional football, has said he dreams of playing in the World Cup but has wondered if he would be safe in Qatar.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Adelaide United player opened up about people’s reactions to the announcement of his sexuality. While most have been positive, Cavallo has addressed concerns about attending the World Cup to play for his country, knowing the host country is known for its heavy restriction on queer people and tough anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
“I would definitely go to the World Cup. I want to show that everyone is okay with it,” Cavallo said. “It’s not just okay for Josh Cavallo because he’s a footballer and he’s protected, I want it to be okay for this ordinary person.”
In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine, and the possibility of the death penalty for Muslims under Sharia law (although there are no known cases of the death penalty having been carried out in the past).
“I dreamed of playing for my country at the World Cup, but do I want my life to be in danger?”
Cavallo explains that this issue “affects me.” He is considering the possibility of representing Australia at the World Cup and while it would be an honor ‘the laws clash at the same time’ and could put him at risk.
“I want to do something really good professionally. I’ve always dreamed of playing for my country at the World Cup, but do I want my life to be at risk?”
After his announcement in October, the midfielder received 700,000 messages within the first 30 minutes, including some from football 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 used to wake up early in the morning to watch them play, so it’s nice to see these straight athletes reach out and say, ‘Hey Josh, it’s fine,'” Cavallo said.
Cavallo has spoken out about Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance and its penalties in the past. He told the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast on Monday that Qatari politics was forcing him to reconsider whether his life was “more important than doing something really good in my career”.
The dream is to play in the Premier League
His dream of playing in the Premier League and developing his game remains as he continues his football career.
Thank you to the fans, you are all so special and have shown me incredible support throughout the season. I loved helping people who needed a guiding hand to become themselves through my story!
It’s a privilege to do that for this world. Cya next season
JC ❤️🔥 pic.twitter.com/quqKlLjcxq
— Josh Cavallo (@JoshuaCavallo) May 23, 2022
“I got to where I am now because I’m a footballer, not a gay footballer. I still have a lot to do – I’m still 22, I’m still at the beginning of my career, I still have many years left in me. But I’m really looking forward to the future and I’m ready to put my head down and work hard on the football pitch.”