Gay footballer Josh Cavallo would be too ‘scared’ to play at World Cup in homophobic Qatar

Josh Cavallo comes out in a video shared by his team Adelaide United

Josh Cavallo has admitted he is terrified of Qatar’s homophobic laws as it prepares to host the World Cup.

The Adelaide United left-back, 21, became world’s only out gay active top-flight male football player when he came out last month. 

But as much his courage as has been applauded by the game’s top players, clubs and bodies, the athlete had admitted he has fears for his safety over the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

In Qatar, male homosexuality is illegal and punishable with fines, prison sentences and technically, under Sharia law, death. Despite this, in 2010 FIFA named Qatar the host of the 2022 World Cup, the first-ever to be held in the Arab world.

“I read something along the lines of that [Qutar] 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,” Cavallo told The Guardian‘s Today in Focus podcast.

“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?”

According to the Human Dignity Trust, various articles of Qatar’s penal code punish same-sex relations with up to seven years in prison, while Sharia courts could technically hand down the death penalty – though there are “no reports of this being applied to date”.

A “danger index” for queer travelers placed Qatar as the second most threatening place in the world to travel for LGBT+ people, with some governments advising LGBT+ travellers to read up on the “serious penalties” they may face in Qatar.

FIFA quickly fielded criticism after awarding the emirate the World Cup after years of high-profile campaigns encouraging inclusivity in the sport.

FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter further fuelled backlash in 2010 when he advised queer football fans to “refrain from any sexual activities” if visiting Qatar for the World Cup.

Josh Cavallo

Speaking to The Guardian‘s Today in Focus, Josh Cavallo said he has been contacted by other queer footballers who want to come out.

“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,” he recalled

“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.”