After becoming the only current, openly gay player in men’s top-flight football last month, Josh Cavallo says in a new interview with the Guardian that he would be “scared” to play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar because of the country’s homosexuality laws.
Cavallo, who plays for Adelaide United in Australia’s A-League, received widespread support from the football community and beyond when he announced on social media that he is gay, including from Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué, Atlético Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson.
The 21-year-old has now voiced his concerns about next year’s World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison.
“It does sadden me to see that,” Cavallo told the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast. “I read something along the lines of it gives a death penalty for gay people in Qatar. It’s something that I’m very scared (of) and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that.”
He added: “One of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country and to know that [the World Cup] is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and that does me make re-evaluate. Is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?”
According to a report into state-sponsored homophobia by Lucas Ramón Mendos of the human rights group ILGA World, Qatar “runs Sharia courts, where technically it is possible that Muslim men could be put to death for same-sex sexual behaviours.”
However, the report adds: “It does not appear that any person has been executed for this reason or at all.”
In an interview with CNN’s Amanda Davies in 2017, Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizing committee, said: “We are not putting any restrictions on any nationality or anybody with respect to their gender, race, orientation, religion to attend this World Cup.”
In his interview with the Guardian, Cavallo reflected about the anguish he suffered before taking the decision to speak publicly about his sexuality.
“Not having anyone to look up to and to see okay, they’re playing football and they’re gay and they’re having a successful career – that is something that scared me and something that I was worried that if I was to potentially come out one day, would it affect my career in a bad way?” he said.
“It was only when I was by myself that I could genuinely relax and not worry and not stress […] living in that constant fear and doubt that you could be questioned, or your lies just don’t add up. That’s something that you play over and over in your head.”
Cavallo, who signed a contract extension with Adelaide United until the end of the 2022/23 season earlier this year, also spoke about the “fantastic” reaction from his teammates after he came out, as well as the positive effect it has had on him as a person.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I can’t tell you how good it feels. Now that the world knows and my teammates know and it’s not a secret, I feel unstoppable. It’s actually amazing. This freedom in my head and the headspace that I’ve got now is so good.”