West Ham footballer Matt Jarvis says posing topless for Attitude magazine has meant that people have asked his wife about his sexuality.

The 26-year-old winger, who is heterosexual, appeared on the cover of Attitude magazine in January and gave an interview saying that gay footballers should be open about their sexuality.

Jarvis admits he was surprised by how much attention he received from his fellow football colleagues and by the media.

Commenting at a recent anti-homophobia FA event, the Mail reports he said: “If I’m completely honest I didn’t think it would get as much exposure as it did. But then that just shows the power of football. Looking back, it’s good I could help in that scenario.

“It’s hard to break down those barriers and if, as a professional footballer, I can help in a slight way then maybe it can help in the long run. Obviously it was out there for me but sometimes you’ve got to be brave. It was an opportunity I got given and I thought it would be an honour to do it.”

He added: “I didn’t realise it would be such a big deal. In any other job, any other scenario, why would this be a big deal? But because of football it’s magnified. A lot of people who my wife knew were actually asking her if I was gay. It’s like, ‘Well, we’re married. I’m sure she would know!’”

Britain’s only openly gay professional footballer Justin Fashanu killed himself in 1998 after struggles with homophobic bullying.

On the prospect of another UK professional player coming out, Jarvis said: “It is a hard decision for someone to make (to come out). With all the pressure of just performing as a footballer, to then go out on a pitch and know that the away fans are going to be using that to their advantage to heckle you to not perform to your best ability.

“For the home fans it would be like any other thing. They would get behind their team. But it’s one to think about for the away fans. You want your team to win, so if you can put anyone else off their game, then you would.”

He added: “For a footballer, thinking what people are going to say – that side of things – it might be quite hard to keep your performances at a really high standard.”

Anton Hysen, a Swedish player, is currently the world’s only openly gay male professional footballer.

In February, former Leeds United footballer Robbie Rogers came out publicly as gay and immediately announced his retirement from the sport.