San Diego Loyal star Collin Martin has questioned whether a closeted footballer will be comfortable playing in the World Cup in Qatar..
The 27-year-old bravely stepped out in 2018 and has been fighting for years to make sport more inclusive.
Martin’s inspiring announcement happened when he was on the books for MLS team Minnesota United.
And at the time, he was the only male professional athlete in the major American sports leagues to do so.
Now playing in the USL Championship, Martin shared his hopes that the World Cup could be a watershed moment for inclusion in the sport.
Harry Kane of England will be among the team captains wearing rainbow colored bracelets in support of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Meanwhile, Martin’s American compatriots have sported a rainbow-themed logo at their training facility in Qatar.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with talkSPORT.com in July, Martin said: “This is a great opportunity for the world to make it clear to the countries and governing bodies that host major tournaments that these tournaments must be inclusive of everyone.
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“I think that the American and English public, and especially the world of sports, have a great responsibility to make sure that the fans who attend these games feel comfortable and supported and that they can be fully themselves at these games.
“But also, I wonder if there’s a player locked into the World Cup, what would it feel like to go out on a pitch and feel comfortable enough playing?”
Qatar has faced allegations about the treatment of migrant workers and a poor human rights record since they became hosts.
Homosexual activity is a criminal offense in Qatar, punishable by jail time, while the government does not recognize same-sex marriages.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has insisted that “everyone is welcome in Qatar”, but a World Cup ambassador from Qatar has described homosexuality as “damage to the mind”.
Martin added: “In terms of a broader perspective of the World Cup, there must be federations that are opposed to any kind of discrimination if that happens at the World Cup, I personally hope it doesn’t.
“I hope it’s just a time to raise more awareness in a country that perhaps has lacked diversity or lacked awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community and human rights.
“I think it can be a great opportunity to educate a lot of people and raise awareness about these things.
“Potentially there could be a hidden player in the World Cup this year.
“We need to make sure that we foster supportive environments so that the player, when the time is right, can share that and feel comfortable with their sexuality.”
Part of that may be due to research on BonusFinder.com which found that nearly one in five American sports fans say professional players should hide their sexuality or gender identity.
Martin has also encountered homophobic abuse while playing, with Junior Flemmings banned for six games in 2020 for using a slur against him.
San Diego was beating the Phoenix Rising 3-1 at the time and needed the win to stay in the USL Championship playoff hunt, but Martins’ teammates and manager, American icon Landon Donovan, took a knee. at the start of the second half before walking out of pitch.
Although Martin told talkSPORT this summer he was touched by the gesture, the former USMNT Under-20 international wasn’t sure if teams in Qatar should do the same.
He said: “That is a difficult question. I suppose it would depend on what happens in the stadium, but abuse of any kind should not be tolerated.
“I think that in the world game, not only not even in Qatar, in other countries, there is abuse towards players, whether it is racial abuse or I am sure that homophobic abuse is happening in all parts of the world, I think it is necessary to treat it and take it seriously.
“Obviously, for me, I had a personal experience where my teammates made the decision to leave the court two years ago.
“And if you had told me that would happen before the game, I would have told you there is no way.
“But I think it took a lot of courage from my teammates at the time to make that decision and support me.
“So when I was in a really difficult time and I was being discriminated against, I needed not only my teammates, but also a coach and at a club that was very supportive and had my back.
Collin Martin, San Diego Loyal football player, who came out as gay in 2018, teamed up with bonus finder and LGBT HERO to understand representation of and attitudes toward the LGBTQIA+ community in US professional team sport.
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