Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta explains how he’s helping to tackle homophobia in football

Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta raises fist during a match

Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta says he challenges anti-LGBTQ+ comments in football “straightaway” to help make the sport more inclusive.

As football organisations continue to grapple with homophobic chanting and abuse from the stand, Premier League star Azpilicueta, 33, said he is dedicated to making football “an environment where everybody is safe”.

During an interview with Chelsea women’s stars Pernille Harder and Magda Eriksson, who are a couple, on Sky Sports News, he said: “I have friends [who] are gay and I would try to help in a way that feels comfortable.”

The Spaniard, who joined Chelsea FC in 2012 and has captained the squad since 2019, added: “The most important thing for me is to try to create an environment where everybody is safe, not only by doing the campaigns that we are doing, which is amazing, but to raise awareness for the world.

Chelsea player Cesar Azpilicueta claps during the end of a match while a Pride Chelsea flag waves in the background.
The ‘Chelsea rent boy’ chant has been routinely condemned by the FA and various Pride groups. (Getty)

“We know how powerful football is, but also on the daily basis trying to create the environment wherever.”

In May 2022, Blackpool FC player Jake Daniels became the first UK male professional footballer to publicly come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990. It followed Australian Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo coming out in October 2021.

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Asked whether either of them coming out was a topic of conversation in football changing rooms, César Azpilicueta replied: “Yeah, it was discussed because of course it was big news. I think it was a great example of bravery in this case.”

The Spain defender went on: “But you know, in these kind of things I think we should normalise [it] when it happens. It’s different because in men’s football, there are not many players [who] came out and [it] might feel a bit more difficult to do it, but of course it was big news.

Blackpool footballer Jack Daniels sitting in a changing room
Blackpool FC footballer Jack Daniels came out publicly as gay in May 2022 (Sky Sports)

“But [it should be] normal. Just move on, it’s his own life, his own choice. We should [treat it] the same with every kind of act and being free and moving forward in a very natural way without any fear of things that happen.”

César Azpilicueta’s comments come in the wake of a string of homophobic incidents at Premier League matches, including during the Carabao Cup quarter final match between Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers last Wednesday (11 January) where a Wolves fan was arrested.

Azpilicueta’s own Chelsea team has often been subjected to the homophobic “Chelsea rent boy chant”, deemed as hate speech by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last year.

However, the Chelsea star said that he believes football culture and education around diversity and inclusion is changing for the better.

“I can speak about 15 years ago,” he said. “But I think if we go back in time, it was different.

“Football, and society, evolves. A long time ago was a bit more tough.

“It’s a way that now you try to make people free and happy to express themselves off the pitch, but also on the pitch.

“I think now education, I’m sure, is different from 10 years ago. And now the kids, they are more aware of the situation of how everybody can be themselves and not having any problems.

“I think that’s the way moving forward, trying to create that – a place that is for everybody.”