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Graeme Le Saux says soccer needs to create safe space for gay players

Former English soccer player Graeme Le Saux, who says his career was damaged by false rumors that he is gay, tells the BBC that gay players need support that is not there now.

"The important thing isn't whether or not there are gay players in professional football," Le Saux told BBC Radio Jersey. "The point is that the environment is such that if they are, they feel that they can achieve and the profession will support them. At the moment I still don't think that's there."

"I think ultimately it's up to football to really face those demons and actually say 'we're going to stand up for people, whatever their color, creed or sexuality' and actually give them the opportunity to say 'if I want to be a football player I'm confident enough to try'."

Le Saux has claimed his career was damaged by homophobic slurs uttered against him while he was playing; the rumors started, he said, because he did not act like a stereotypical player. Le Saux, who says he is not gay, was so incensed by slurs uttered by Robbie Fowler during a 1999 game that he knocked Fowler to the ground. He says Fowler has never apologized to him.

Le Saux believes the incident strengthened the myth that he was gay. "It was humiliating on many levels because it was a culmination of many years of abuse that I'd had," he said.