Gay footballers are afraid to come out, says Sweden's Ekdal

The 30-year-old midfielder believes the hostile atmosphere towards other sexual orientations could put kids off from playing the sport

Sampdoria and Sweden midfielder Albin Ekdal has expressed his frustration that players are still reluctant to come out as homosexual in the modern football world.

Ekdal has spoken out on a number of occasions on the need to make the sport more welcoming, and previously pointed out the more inclusive atmosphere enjoyed in women's football as an example to follow. 

And speaking at a debate organised by the European Parliament, he repeated his call for diverse sexual orientations to be respected. 

"In an ideal world nobody would feel uncomfortable saying they are homosexual, in their regular life or in football," Ekdal told the Sport and Homophobia: a Game to Win conference. 

"Unfortunately, in real life it is different. In our sport only eight players have ever come out, an extremely small number. 

"Many would like to but they do not feel free to do so for fear of negative reactions. It is an atmosphere where there is a lot of homophobia and these players are scared of becoming the object of insults and abuse, on and off the pitch.

"As a result, they feel obliged to run away, hide and live in fear."

Ekdal continued by calling on football authorities to step up their efforts in order to end the perceived stigma against homosexual players. 

"We have to fight against this problem, using education as a force for good," he aded. 

"What kind of society are we if a young boy cannot pursue his dream of becoming a footballer due to his sexual orientation? 

"Every time a kid hangs up his boots and stops playing because he is not accepted by the dressing room, his club and those around him, it is a defeat for the football world. Being gay does not define you as a person, only to whom you are attracted. 

"Each of us is part of the human race and we have a shared passion: we love football and that is most important for all of us."

Ekdal began his career with Brommapojkarna in his native Sweden, and has gone on to represent the likes of Juventus, Hamburg, Bologna and Cagliari as well as making a half-century of appearances for the national team.