Gay footballer Josh Cavallo ‘wouldn’t feel safe’ playing at World Cup in Saudi Arabia

Out gay footballer Josh Cavallo has revealed he wouldn’t go to the 2034 FIFA World Cup in Saudi Arabia if selected, because of the country’s anti-gay laws. 

The 24-year-old Australian footballer said football clubs should make it clear that it is “not acceptable” for countries with anti-LGBTQ+ laws to be allowed to host the World Cup, claiming he would “fear for [his] life” if he was to compete there.

It is illegal to be gay in Saudi Arabia, with the country imposing the death penalty as punishment for homosexuality. According to Equaldex, the country scores just 14 out of 100 in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, with no legal protection from discrimination. 

“I honestly wouldn’t feel safe,” Josh Cavallo told the Daily Mirror. “It’s sad to say that, but even in my football career, there [are] certain countries I will not go to and play club football or with the national team.

“To know that I’m limited in certain countries, because they don’t approve of how I love or how I live my life, is quite saddening. I wouldn’t want to be entering a space like that at the moment. There’s a lot of improvement that needs to happen before [I’d] consider that.”

Josh Cavallo. (Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Cavallo has previously spoken out about the World Cup being held in Qatar two years ago, a country where it is also illegal to be gay. 

“Clubs should turn around and support LGBT+ people,” he said. Even though he’s dreamt of playing in a World Cup since he was a young boy, he wouldn’t risk going to such counties.

“It comes to a point where it’s your livelihood over your job which, for me, is incredibly sad because this is what I do, I wake up and I breathe football.

“There needs to be a point where we say countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar can’t [host] such high-calibre tournaments’,” he insisted. “That’s a no-brainer for me.”

Josh Cavallo has been sent a number death threats and homophobic abuse since coming out publicly as gay in 2021, but knowing he has helped other young LGBTQ+ people has been the “light at the end of the tunnel”. 

He told the newspaper: “Unfortunately, because I’m in the public eye and I’m the first representation of an openly gay footballer, I am a bit of a target. But I know the impact it’s having, how happy it’s making people, how it’s helping people come out of their shell and out of [the] bubble that they’ve been stuck in their whole lives.

“They can bring on as much hatred as they want, I’m never changing what I’m doing because I know I’m helping these people, getting [told] by little kids in the street or at the grocery store: ‘You helped me with my coming out’.”

The football star, who announced his engagement to electrician Leighton Morrell in March, said his own team, Adelaide United, have been incredibly supportive, and other teams should follow their lead. 

“Seeing it spread in Australia, that most teams are wearing the Pride armband… that’s excellent to see the awareness and the impact it’s had,” he said. 

“We’re seeing a lot more rainbows in the stands. It’s been normalised hugely in Australia. If you’d told me that three years ago, there’s no way I would have thought my impact could have been involved in changing that.”

Despite all that, there’s a lot to do, he said. “I’m fighting and continuing and I’ll never give up.”

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