Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema says homosexuality in football will not be fully accepted until an elite men’s player comes out as gay.
The Netherlands international, who is in a relationship with Arsenal team-mate Lisa Evans, is one of a number of openly gay female players.
No player has come out while playing in England’s professional men’s league.
Asked whether a top male player coming out would help, Miedema responded: “Obviously I like to think so.”
Former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger is the most prominent recent example of a player to announce he was gay following retirement, but no active player in the Premier League has ever done so.
Research by the Football v Homophobia campaign in 2018 found 63% of LGBT+ supporters had experienced or witnessed abuse at matches over sexuality or gender identity.
In 2017, a House of Commons inquiry called for a one- or two-year ban for first-time offenders caught chanting homophobic abuse.
And with a number of homophobic-related charges at football stadiums recently, including arrests made following West Ham’s draw with Brighton at the weekend, tackling the issue remains a challenge for the Football Association and Miedema feels having a prominent gay male footballer would help change perceptions.
“If someone was to come out and that player is fully respected, it would be easy for a lot of other boys to come out as well,” Miedema, the Netherlands’ all-time leading goalscorer, said.
“I think you should do what you want and let people do whatever they feel good with.”
“I don’t like social media anyway so I would always say, no matter what happens, social media is going to be a place that always makes it worse,” she added.
“Right now I think we are too busy thinking about everybody else but I think we need to focus on ourselves.
“Why does it change the player if he is gay or not? Why does it change the player if he or she is from Holland, from Africa, from Australia? We are all the same so why can’t we just accept how we are and who we are and go from there?
“Just enjoy football and enjoy life, that is how easy it is for me anyway.”
Miedema says the only rivalries that can be accepted in football are around the teams people support.
“For me personally, I don’t get why it is still an issue, especially in football because we all share the same passion,” she said.
“Obviously there is always go be a rivalry – between Chelsea and Arsenal for example – but in the end you have all got the same goal so, for me, it doesn’t matter who is on the pitch and who you support.
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“I think we should be smart enough to keep it friendly, know where the line is and not cross that line.”