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Australian football star Josh Cavallo has proudly come out as gay, saying he “couldn’t be happier” with his decision to reveal his sexuality to the world.
The Adelaide United player announced the news on Wednesday (27 October) in a heartfelt social media post, declaring he had been on a “journey” to get to the point in his life where he was “proud to publicly announce I am gay“.
He added: “Being a gay closeted footballer, I’ve had to learn to mask my feelings in order to fit the mould of a professional footballer. Growing up being gay and playing football were just two worlds that hadn’t crossed paths before.
“I’ve lived my life assuming that this was a topic never to be spoken about. In football, you only have a small window to achieve greatness, and coming out publicly may have a negative impact on a career.”
He admitted it was “astonishing” to him to realise there are “currently no gay professional footballers who are out and actively playing” in the world. But he hoped this would change in the future so more LGBT+ people can feel “they are welcome in the football community”.
Josh Cavallo’s post was later accompanied by a personal video filmed in his home which was shared by his club. He shared that he “always felt the need to hide myself” growing up because he was “ashamed I would never be able to do what I love and be gay”.
“I thought that people would think of me differently when they found out, they would start treating me differently, they would start saying bad things about me or making fun out of me,” the 21-year-old said.
“But that’s not the case, if anything you earn more respect from people.”
The midfielder said the experience of coming out to his loved ones, teammates and coaches has been “incredible”.
“The response and support I have received is immense,” he shared. “It’s starting to make me think that why have I been holding this burden for so long?”
Cavallo said he wanted to show people that “it’s OK to be yourself and play football” while also living as the “true Josh Cavallo”.
The young player has received waves of support from fans and fellow footballers after his emotional announcement.
“Visibility and representation matters,” he added. “The world is a better place for your courage! Legend!”
Matildas’ forward Caitlin Foord sent her support to her fellow Aussie for having the “strength to speak out and own who you are”.
Pride Cup, an Australian group that challenges LGBTI+ discrimination within sporting clubs, said it is “thrilled” to see Cavallo “come out on the public stage” as sport is an “incredible platform for social change”. It added the more elite athletes who feel comfortable living their truth will result in safer sporting environments for “LGBTI+ people everywhere”.
“Young LGBTI+ people everywhere will be watching the media around Josh Cavallo with a new sense of hope for themselves and their own sporting aspirations, be that to play at an elite level, or to head down to their local club to have their first kick,” Pride Cup said.
“Josh Cavallo will inspire an entire generation of young Australians to feel safe to play and be their true selves.”
Across the world, there are only a handful of openly gay male footballers – none of whom are playing in the top tier of the sport.
Justin Fashanu made headlines as the first gay active professional footballer after he came out in an interview with The Sun on 22 October 1990. He remained the only male footballer to reveal his sexuality while playing professionally in the top tiers for over three decades.
Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in 2014 after he retired a year earlier due to injury problems. The former footballer said it had only been in the “last few years” that he realised his sexuality. While he was “never ashamed of being who I am”, he admitted it was “not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays”.
American former Leeds player Robbie Rogers revealed he is gay before he retired in 2013. He later returned to play for LA Galaxy, becoming the first openly gay male athlete in a major North American professional sport, before he retired once again in 2017.