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Italian goalie decries homophobia in soccer

Morgan De Sanctis says players would come out if the environment was better.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Morgan De Sanctis, goalie for AS Roma in the Italian Serie A league, estimates that as many as 15 players in the league are gay but are afraid to come out because homophobia.

"I can say that homosexuality exists in our world," the ex-Italy international told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Out of 400-500 colleagues, surely two-to-three per cent are homosexual? But nobody has ever had the courage to come out because unfortunately ours is a homophobic environment."

North American male pro sports leagues -- including Major League Soccer -- are far ahead in terms of acceptance of gay players versus elite international soccer. We regularly hear soccer officials, coaches and players in various countries say homophobic things. And there have been no trailblazers like Robbie Rogers in the MLS, Jason Collins in the NBA or Michael Sam in the NFL to make international soccer confront the fact that it has gay players.

At the Brazil World Cup, Mexican fans freely yelled a homophobic slur toward opponents. With the next two World Cup in very gay-unfriendly Russia and Qatar, the governing body has shown it could care less about gay rights. There has been some movement in the English Premier League with an anti-homophobia campaign and scattered players elsewhere have made pro-gay statements, but the sport still is missing a critical mass of institutional acceptance that many of its players are gay.