LEAGUE ONE Wycombe have signed a non-league striker who was made homeless in his native country – because he is gay.
Richard Kone, 20, was introduced to the Adams Park crowd before kick-off in yesterday’s 3-2 win over Bristol Rovers.
Hotshot Kone, who has been starring with Athletic Newham in the Essex Senior League, is only the second openly gay player in England’s top four divisions.
He ended up on the streets in his home country of Ivory Coast after coming out to his parents, then appeared in the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff four years ago before linking up with Athletic Newham, where he has scored 21 times this season.
Kone, who is now reconciled with his mother, said: “I was living on the street after I had some problems with my parents because I am homosexual. It was terribly difficult being homeless in my country.”
Although it is not illegal to be gay in Ivory Coast, discrimination against homosexuality is widespread.
There is no legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The only other openly gay player in men’s professional football in England is Blackpool’s Jake Daniels.
Bloomfield, who was the first footballer to sign the Football v Homophobia Charter for Action, said: “It’s been a long saga. Richard played for us pre-season and we looked to try and sign him in the summer window.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for various reasons so it’s been four or five months in the making.
“Richard’s a young lad and we have to be careful how much is put on his shoulders. But he knows where the back of the net is and he’s been working hard with us behind the scenes. We have him on a long contract and we’re looking to build him into a good player.
“We have a few young players we are excited about and Richard is one of them. We want to have our own assets here and develop our own players.
“We’re pleased to get his move over the line.”