LONDON: England women’s football captain Casey Stoney has spoken publicly about being gay for the first time. Stoney, 31, said in an interview with the BBC that she decided to come out after the positive reaction to similar decarations by diver Tom Daley and German footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger.
Stoney also criticised the awards of World Cups to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 given attitudes and laws there against homosexuality.
On the overall issue, she said: “I was living a lie. I’ve never hidden it within football circles because it is accepted. But to the outside world, I’ve never spoken about my sexuality.”
The Arsenal Ladies defender added: “I feel it’s really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many people struggling who are gay, and you hear about people taking their own lives because they are homosexual. That should never happen.
“How can I expect other people to speak about themselves if I’m not willing to do that myself?”
Stoney, who has 116 caps for her country and also captained Great Britain in the London Olympics, said the decision had taken “a long while to get to” but that “a huge weight” had been lifted from her shoulders.
She said: “For the last 10 years I’ve always cared too much what other people think. I was frightened of the stereotypes, frightened of being judged, frightened of what other people might say, especially the abuse you can get through social media.
“But I think I’m in a place where I feel so comfortable in my own skin, I feel so loved by the person I’m with, that I feel I can face anything.”
Stoney revealed the lengths she went to in order to keep her private life a secret and spoke openly about why other women football players have not come out as gay.
She also said it was “incredible” that World Cups have been awarded to Russia and Qatar given their attitudes towards homosexuals.
Russia, currently staging the Winter Olympics in Sochi, is the host for the next World Cup after this summer’s in Brazil, but there have been several protests after it passed new laws banning ‘gay propaganda’ aimed at under 18-year-olds – widely seen as an attack on gay rights.
Stoney said: “I won’t be going to Russia or Qatar to watch a World Cup because I wouldn’t be accepted there.
“I think it’s incredible that these countries get World Cups and Olympics when they don’t accept everybody to go there and be part of it. There will be [Olympic] athletes competing out [in Russia] who are gay. I can’t imagine how frightened they must feel going out there and competing.
“When Russian President Vladimir Putin says that gay people can come over but ‘please don’t go near the children’ what sort of message is that sending if he is that uneducated and he’s ruling that country? It seriously worries me.
“It’s about educating the people at the top, all the way down.”
By publicly coming out, Stoney becomes the most high-profile active gay footballer in England.
Ex-Aston Villa player Hitzlsperger retired before he revealed he was gay in January, while former Leeds player Robbie Rogers also hung up his boots last year before returning to play for David Beckham’s former team, LA Galaxy.
Stoney said: “I looked at the response that Tom Daley got. It was incredibly positive, and I thought ‘wow the world is changing and it’s time for me to stand up and tell my side of the story’. Those three or four people have given me the courage to say I’m gay.”