The Manchester United player Anders Lindegaard has called on closeted gay football players to come out because “gay people need a hero”.

Lindegaard, writing in an open letter to a website in his native Denmark said: “Gay people need a hero. They need someone who dares to step forward and stand for their sexuality.”

He added: “Homosexuality in football is a taboo subject. The atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough. The mechanisms are primitive, and it is often expressed through a classic stereotype notion that a real man should be brave, strong, aggressive and loyal.

“And it is not the image that a football supporter associates with a gay person.

“Of course it is a problem for young gay guys who love football, and feel they must stop their sport. Any discrimination is totally unacceptable, regardless of whether it is to do with colour, religion or sexuality.

“A gay player would fear the reception he gets from fans. My general impression is that other players would accept a gay player without any major problems.”

Last month, speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, Anton Hysen, the world’s only professional openly gay football player explained why more players haven’t come out: “No one wants to lose sponsorship and they are afraid of the commercial elements as well as losing the trust of players and managers. Some players want to be private though and don’t want to be professionally out and that is their choice”.