England and Surrey cricketer Steven Davies does not believe gay football fans should fear travelling to Russia or Qatar for the next two World Cups – even though the countries are known for gay hatred.
The 26-year-old wicket-keeper-batsman, who came out publicly as gay in February 2011, exclusively spoke to PinkNews.co.uk at the launch of the Gay Games for London bid in Westminster last week.
Having made his Twenty20 International debut for England against the West Indies in Port of Spain during March 2009, Davies has since been on tours to countries such as Pakistan, where homosexuality remains illegal.
Asked if he felt the need to act differently when abroad, Davies told PinkNews: “Not at all. We toured Dubai and Abu Dhabi where it is illegal to be gay and I experienced no problems at all… it was just a normal tour for me.”
With the 2018 World Cup taking place in Russia; a country where LGBT rights have steadily been eroded under Vladimir Putin’s iron grip, and the one after that in Qatar; a state where gay people can be jailed for up to five years, Davies understands why many gay football fans may be fearful of travelling out to the next two tournaments. But he said to PinkNews that the issue has been overstated by the media:
“I think it is to be honest… when I was over in [Dubai and Abu Dhabi] I was probably a little bit guarded – we had the whole team thing, we had security and stuff – but I really don’t think it would be an issue, I have been on holiday to Dubai, without being in a sports [setting] where it was absolutely fine, so I don’t see any issues with it to be honest.”
When asked if people outside of the LGBT community would understand the relevance of the Gay Games, Davies told PinkNews: “No I think they will understand – with the success of the London 2012 Olympic Games… if we can get this in 2018, I think it will be a great success, I think people will really buy into it and really embrace it and really celebrate it – so I have got high hopes for this.”
When it comes to tackling homophobia and embracing LGBT diversity, Davies believes real progress is being made throughout the sporting world. He told PinkNews: “I really think things are improving, since I came out, I have experienced no problems, it’s been great… it’s almost been like people have approached with the attitude and said ‘so what! No one cares!’ And it really has been like that, I’m not hiding any bad stories that have happened, it really has been a great thing for me personally but everyone has taken it really well.”
Last month, in an interview with Gay Times magazine, Olympic diver Chris Mears suggested that one possible reason why gay athletes choose to remain private about their sexuality is that they fear losing some of their lucrative female fan base.
Davies said to PinkNews that he understood the concern but did not think it was justified.
“I kind of get that… but I don’t think that it is really an issue. For me… playing high-level sport [means] there is a lot of pressure on you, and you’re constantly being judged every single day, from the moment you walk down to breakfast, if you’re not smiling the coach wants to know why?
“And some people just want an easier life… especially in football and cricket where the fans are so passionate… sometimes for some people their private life is their private life, and they want to keep it that way, and that’s fair enough, if you are ready to come out and want to do it: great, I’m sure everyone will support you, but some people don’t want to and they want to keep their private life private.”