Louis van Gaal has made the astonishing claim that there are only a few gay players in football.
The former Manchester United boss insisted in an interview with Dutch LGBT newspaper 'Gaykrant' that the game “is not a mirror of society.”
Van Gaal, 68, who retired a year ago after a glittering coaching career that also saw him work in Holland, Spain and Germany, admitted that he had his suspicions that certain players he managed were homosexual.
But he says that sexuality remains such a taboo subject inside dressing rooms that he would never advise a player to come out.
Asked if there are any gay players in the professional game, Van Gaal said: “Yes, but not many.
“The football world is not a mirror of society.”
Van Gaal's words will not help the campaign to bring more LBGT diversity to football.
Six years ago, he took part in the famous canal parade that is a highlight of the annual Amsterdam Gay Pride event.
But the Dutchman revealed that footballers are still under intolerable pressure when it comes to being open about their sexuality.
And he hinted that he would be reluctant to advise a player to come out.
Van Gaal said: “You need to be incredibly brave and you need to have a lot of strength if you want to come out.
“Because the football world and today’s angry society seem to deal with a different sexual choice.
“It is better for your own personality to stay close to your own feelings.
“But when you do come out, the pressure for a gay footballer will be massive.
“It would cause so much of a stir. You need to take so many hurdles. Can you handle that and will you feel okay with that?
“In my whole career, in all those years, not a single player has ever told me that he is gay. Really, not one! That says enough.
“A homosexual footballer is always afraid for the consequences of coming out.
“I think if it would stay in the changing room, a player would be willing to share that he is gay.
“We all pretend to believe that we all have the same rights.
“But you guys (gay people) don’t have that. I do regret that. A massive part of my own country is still very conservative.”
Van Gaal, who also managed Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Dutch national team, added: “I did often think that players were gay. I have had my suspicions with certain players.
“But if a player does not want to admit it, it is better that I don’t make his life harder.
“I won’t say at which club it was, but I worked with players who I thought were gay.
“I want to protect those players. The majority of them are married to women and have kids. I can’t do that to them by revealing it.
“I used to ask (players) if they had a girlfriend. Only later I decided to ask if they have a partner.”
Yet Van Gaal later seems to contradict himself in the interview by claiming that skilful players have more of a propensity to be gay.
He said: “I noticed in my career that it's the more creative players who are gay.
“And those kinds of players are more valuable in football.
“In other words, they are loved because of their football skills. You do understand what I mean, don’t you?
“I could be wrong here in all this, but not very often I am wrong in my life.”
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