LA Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers believes he may not have made it as a professional footballer had he revealed his sexuality earlier in his career.
The 26-year-old came out as gay in February, shortly after leaving English club Leeds United.
The USA international has enjoyed a stellar career both at home and abroad – featuring for the likes of Heerenveen, Columbus Crew and Leeds.
He has also earned 18 caps for his country, making his debut against Sweden in 2009.
However, although he feels that nowadays he would likely be afforded the same chances in the game, he admits that growing up with the “extra baggage” of coming out as gay could have affected the opportunities he was given in football.
He told BBC Radio 5Live: “When I was growing up I don’t think I would have had the same chances (if I had come out). I think it would have been more difficult. Maybe coaches would shy away from playing me in the national team.
“Not now, but back then I don’t know whether people would have been interested in me as a footballer – whether they would have been interested in the extra baggage that came with that… especially the media stuff around the locker room, which could have been a bit of a distraction.”
Rogers spent just over a year in English football and announced his retirement after leaving Leeds.
He subsequently reversed that decision and made a return to the USA to sign for MLS side Galaxy in May.
The winger hopes that the positive response he has received since coming out can inspire other gay footballers to follow suit, but he accepts that the passion surrounding the game in the UK could make that difficult.
“I hope they (other players) can learn from my experience and see that I am just playing football and getting on with my life,” he added.
“I don’t think fans in England or fans in the UK are homophobic at all. They are just so passionate they will do anything to help their team get a little bit of an edge.
“The things they will say in a stadium does not reflect their character. But they take it just a little bit overboard sometimes. I learned that while I was in England.
“It’s a little bit sad. Fans need to realise what you’re saying to players, especially when you are on that level. You need to think it through before you start yelling at players.”