Italy players hold aloft the FIFA World Cup trophy.Geneva: Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has urged sports people to declare their sexual orientation without fear in order to further equality.

It is “a shame, in this day and age” that people “had to hide who they really are,” Pillay said in Geneva while speaking on equality in sports, according to

“I encourage players, sports people to declare their sexual orientation without fear,” said Pillay to reporters in Geneva. “That’s the only way they will find the right to sexual orientation accepted. They are role models, it’s important to send this message to their fans as well.”

Pillay’s message is seen as timely as the world attention remains riveted on the 32 team 2014 FIFA World Cup is underway in Brazil.

Pillay also stressed that countries bidding to host major sporting events should be more aware about equality and the social implications of their bids.

“They risk becoming hubs of human rights violations, including misuse of public funds, child labor, forced evictions, and demolition and the sexual exploitation of human beings including children in the surge of tourism,” Pillay said. “Sporting events should celebrate the joy of human potential, not generate pain and abuse.”

The 2022 World Cup is slated to take place in Qatar, where allegations of massive human rights violations are being reported.

In particular same-sex relations is illegal in Qatar, making the upcoming World Cup a potentially dangerous one for gay fans as well as gay players.

Same-sex relations can be punished with lashes and jail in Qatar and gay groups say they were “deeply concerned” by FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to that country.

The international football governing body FIFA’s task force last year announced its intention to put pressure on Qatar to relax its anti-gay legislation ahead of hosting the 2022 World Cup.