An Italian TV presenter and politician has said there are gay players in the Italian World Cup squad – but they won’t come out due to fears about homophobia.

Alessandro Cecchi Paone told IBTimes: “Unfortunately the football world is a very homophobic universe, a place where machismo has to be exhibited.

“I can assure you that within the locker rooms the sexual orientation of players is known and accepted.”

When asked whether there were any gay players in the 30-man Italian World Cup squad, Cecchi replied: “Yes, there are. Don’t ask me for names, because they are covered by privacy laws and it would also be in bad taste.”

The World Cup begins on Thursday 12 June, with Italy making their debut against England on Saturday (14 June).

In April, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger questioned the lack of openly gay footballers in the Premier League.

Speaking to PinkNews last month, former England defender Graeme Le Saux said it’s wrong to assume an openly gay premiership footballer would face the same amount of homophobic abuse as the late Justin Fashanu.