European football's governing body tweeted its thanks after England's only openly gay footballer, Owls midfielder Liam Davis, recorded a special video backing the initiative to foster greater inclusion and diversity in the sport for UEFA's website.
In a series of tweets, @UEFA called the 27-year-old, pictured, a "fantastic role model" and hailed the EVO-STIK League for its "great support" promoting the campaign and using the competition's social media accounts to spread their message.
Davis - the first gay footballer to play at Wembley earlier this year when Clee made it to the FA Vase final against South Shields - recorded the video in the run-up to Christmas when UEFA sent their media team to Lincolnshire to interview him.
While admitting he'd received abuse from opponents, Davis insists football’s attitudes to homosexuality are increasingly progressive and is urging other players not to worry about coming out after sharing his own first hand experiences for the video.
"My advice to a young gay footballer at any level or any standard is just to be themselves,” said Davis. “Don’t over-worry and overthink things. I don’t think it will be as big an issue as you think. I never once thought about football when I came out.
"It was just a case of, this is who I am and I think this is the time to tell people who I am. But I would never, ever overthink it. And then football just fell into place. It was out of season at the time. I joined a new team, didn’t think about it and everything went on like normal.”
"It seems to me bizarre that we’re not getting anywhere, that people are still reluctant to come out. I want to tell them that literally I have never had any issues, no problems, nothing but a positive response. If I can get that out there, that football is a wonderfully supportive environment, then I guess I should.”
Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, hailed UEFA for addressing the issue of homophobia and making the video with the Owls star.
Powar said: “The Uefa Equal Game film about Liam represents the first time that an international football governing body has addressed an issue that is still a taboo in many parts of Europe. The film helps us all to understand that in football there is a place for all of us to be accepted whatever our background, and that homophobia and exclusion cannot be tolerated.”
Launched by European football's governing body in August to promote inclusion, diversity and accessibility at all levels of football across the continent, the initiative has been backed by clubs across Europe this season playing in competition's from the Champions League to the the Women's Super League and the EVO-STIK League.
For more information and to see the player's video visit the dedicated #EqualGame pages on UEFA's website by clicking here: www.equalgame.com.
Images courtesy of @UEFA/Twitter
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