Zander Murray, Scotland's first openly gay footballer, has called out the "horrendous" homophobic abuse he received on social media just hours before the release of his upcoming documentary.
Murray, who plays for Scottish League Two side Bonnyrigg Rose, came out as gay back in September and recently teamed up with the BBC for a new documentary to assess what more needs to be done to tackle homophobia in football. But just hours before the series, Zander Murray - Out on the Pitch, aired on the BBC on Monday night, the 31-year-old was forced to respond to homophobic abuse in response to a Twitter post.
In response to a user who had posted a derogatory message underneath a tweet Murray had shared applauding a young football fan, the striker said: "Fully expect some homophobic abuse or hate for bringing out a documentary trying to help people and our game. But to comment under this post!? Horrendous, get a grip."
Since coming out in a private Facebook post last year, Murray has spoken about his determination to try and act as a role-model for the LGBT+ community. Blackpool striker Jake Daniels became the first openly gay UK footballer since Justin Fashanu earlier in the season - and Murray is ready to play his role in inspiring the next generation.
In an exclusive interview with Mirror Football, Murray said: "Personally, it's been nuts, absolutely nuts. I've done inputs with football academies and media to help inspire people. But I didn't realise that just being visible, being a role model, has really, really helped support people.
Fully expect some homophobic abuse or hate for bringing out a documentary trying to help people and our game. But to comment under this post!? Horrendous get a grip. pic.twitter.com/fa6WnUy3k2— Zander Murray (@ZanderMurray) March 13, 2023
"I've had people message me and send me letters and it's just being brave enough to be visible. I did underestimate at the beginning how powerful that can be. Obviously, I never had anyone like that; there was Justin Fashanu, God bless him.
"But other than him there was no-one really to look up to, to aspire to be and playing the game I love. I did a private Facebook post.
"I thought it was an easy way to tell the football community, my team-mates and that maybe in the lower leagues of Scottish football, it would help a few who have been struggling with their sexuality. I never expected it to go this crazy. But here we are."
Murray is hopeful that his documentary with the BBC can help stamp out homophobia in the stands.
He added: "We've got to a point now where there is respect from players, coaches, staff, that's pretty much there. It's just the fans we need to work on. The past year has been challenging for the LGBT+ community, we need to keep being reactive as well as proactive.
"We need to keep fighting the fight. The list is endless of support networks and individuals as well who call it out, it's not just me, it's a collective. We need to call it out to hopefully get us to a point where it minimalises it."