Former Premier League footballer Carl Hoefkens has revealed that he knows of at least two gay professional players in the UK.
The 39-year-old also said that he played with a third gay player during his career in Belgium, saying that in all of the instances the men in question did not hide their sexuality from their teammates.
“I played alongside three gay footballers, including one who was a genuinely big name,” Hoefkens told Belgian publication De Zondag.
“They did not hide who they were in the dressing room. One was at Club Brugge, and the other two were in England.”
He added: “I won’t name names as I respect their requests.
“One of them would even arrive at training with his boyfriend. They asked us to keep quiet to the outside world, but don’t ask me why.”
The defender has previously played for Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion in the UK.
Back in 2012, Hoefkens posed for a gay magazine with the headline ‘Gay Is Okay’.
“I find it strange that homosexuality is still a taboo in football. It is a pity,” he said.
“I didn’t hesitate for a second to pose for the magazine. That was during a time of renewed violence against gays.
“My parents always taught me that all men are equal, including their sexual orientation.
“I hope that a top player will one day stand up and announce: ‘I’m gay – so what?’ Then the taboo will finally disappear.”
He added: “If I were gay I would do it for certain. This is something that is generally accepted in society after all.”
There has never been a publicly out footballer in the Premier League, while the last high-profile player to come out of the closet was Justin Fashanu in 1990.
Earlier this year, semi-pro footballer Liam Davis became the first openly gay player to walk onto the pitch at the new Wembley Stadium, when he played for his club Cleethorpeks Town in the FA Vase final.
It came after FA boss Greg Clarke claimed that we’re still ‘decades away‘ from a professional footballer in the Premier League coming out as gay.