English men’s game ‘long way off’ from having openly gay player, says Lisa Evans

The West Ham player believes there is still a ‘stigma in the men’s game that surrounds sexuality’

Phil Medlicott
Monday 13 December 2021 17:48
<p>Lisa Evans takes a photo with young fans after West Ham’s WSL match against Aston Villa</p>

Lisa Evans takes a photo with young fans after West Ham’s WSL match against Aston Villa

Lisa Evans hopes English football will soon have an equivalent of Josh Cavallo but fears it “could still be a long way off yet”.

Adelaide United midfielder Cavallo said publicly in October he was gay, becoming the only known current male top-flight footballer to be out.

While a number of players at clubs in English women’s football are publicly out, there are none across the country’s top four divisions in the men’s game.

Asked when English football might see an equivalent of Cavallo, Evans, who is on loan at West Ham from Arsenal, told the PA news agency: “Hopefully soon – it would be amazing that someone would feel brave enough to do it and I think it would help so many others follow suit as well after that.

“It would be something that would be great to see and hopefully would help many other people. But I think it could still be a long way off yet unfortunately.

“Without a doubt (Cavallo publicly coming out will help bring it closer). That raised so much awareness. So many Premier League players were tweeting about it and messaging him. That’s really good to see. But I do think in the Premier League it’s still going to take a bit of time for that to happen.”

England captain Harry Kane wore a rainbow armband during Euro 2021 in Pride month as a show of solidarity with the LGBT+ community, and support for Stonewall’s 2021 Rainbow Laces campaign has been visible in the Premier League and EFL in recent weeks.

There's a lot more stigma in the men's game that surrounds sexuality and I do appreciate it's so hard for male players to come out because of the stick they would get from fans potentially

Lisa Evans

There have also this season been high-profile incidents of alleged homophobic chanting, against Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour and Conor Gallagher, on loan at Norwich and Crystal Palace respectively, in matches against Liverpool and Leeds.

Evans is sure having a player follow Cavallo’s example would be the “biggest thing” to help move the men’s game forward in this area, but also believes anyone who did so would likely face abuse from fans because of the “stigma in the men’s game that surrounds sexuality”.

The Scotland international, who is in a relationship with Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema said: “I think that is the biggest thing and we all just need to keep raising awareness and asking questions.

“I think women’s football has always been a safe place for people to be themselves and that’s the most important thing for me, to be able to be myself.

“I just think there’s way more role models, people in women’s football who are out there, and that are willing to be vocal about it.

“There’s a lot more stigma in the men’s game that surrounds sexuality and I do appreciate it’s so hard for male players to come out because of the stick they would get from fans potentially.

“Stuff like Rainbow Laces helps. But there’s still a long, long way to go yet and we just need to see what happens in the future.”

Evans joined West Ham on loan for the 2021-22 season in August. The versatile 29-year-old has spent the last four seasons with Arsenal, who had a change in management over the summer as Jonas Eidevall replaced Joe Montemurro.

After being left “pretty shocked” by the north London club looking to send her on loan, Evans is enjoying her time with West Ham, and says she currently does not see her “future being at Arsenal”, with her mind very much open to the possibility of the switch being made permanent.

Lisa Evans (right) has been with Arsenal since 2017 (Zac Goodwin/PA).

Evans said: “I started off injured, but I feel like I’m getting into swing of things now. I’m really enjoying it, and long may it last.

“I was surprised in all honesty, it (the move) wasn’t something I had expected. We had a new manager at Arsenal, the move came around and I was just pretty shocked to be fair, the club had told me their intention was for me to go out on loan, which was obviously really difficult at that time. It wasn’t something I’d planned for, put it that way.

“But I think it’s been kind of a blessing in disguise. It’s a move that’s been really good for my footballing career.

“I still catch up with Jonas quite a bit, I spoke to him after the FA Cup final (earlier this month) and I’m still really close with the Arsenal girls, I see them a lot. But it (Arsenal) is not something I’m focused on right now – I just want to do my best for West Ham. In all honesty I don’t see my future being at Arsenal.”

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