A former Premier League footballer has revealed that two of his teammates in England were out as gay to the rest of the squad.
Carl Hoefkens, who played for Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, also said he had a gay teammate while in Belgium.
There has never been an out gay footballer in the Premier League.
The last player to come out while playing was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but died by suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse.
Hoefkens, who played 22 times for Belgium, told Belgian outlet De Zondag: “I played alongside three gay footballers, including one who was a genuinely big name.
“They did not hide who they were in the dressing-room.
“One was at Club Brugge, and the other two were in England.”
He said these former colleagues were still in the closet, but were open about their sexuality when they were playing with him.
“I won’t name names as I respect their requests,” said Hoefkens.
“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.”
Hoefkens, 39, posed for a gay magazine five years ago with the caption: “gay is okay”.
And the Belgium international said: “I find it strange that homosexuality is still a taboo in football. It is a pity.
“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,” he added.”
“I hope that a top player will one day stand up and announce: ‘I’m gay – so what?’ Then the taboo will finally disappear.
“If I were gay I would do it for certain,” claimed the former defender.
“This is something that is generally accepted in society after all.”
Manchester United star Paul Pogba has also said he’d welcome a gay player in the Premier League.
And Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe said in March that he would not hesitate to sign a gay footballer to the club.
Earlier this year, non-league footballer Liam Davis made history when he became the first out gay male footballer to play at Wembley Stadium, as he represented Cleethorpes Town in the FA Vase final.
But FA boss Greg Clarke has admitted that men’s football is “two decades” behind the women’s game when it comes to its attitude to homosexuality.