Blackpool striker Jake Daniels has become the first active professional male footballer in England to come out as gay in more than 30 years.
Most important points:
- The Blackpool FC teenager said he was inspired by Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo who came out last year
- Daniels said he “has hated lying all my life and felt the need to change in order to fit in”
- The English Football Association supports Daniels
The 17-year-old said he was inspired by the example of Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo, who last year became the first openly gay male player in a top-tier competition.
“All my life I have hated lying and feeling the need to change in order to fit in,” Daniels said on Blackpool’s website.
“I want to be a role model myself by doing this. There are people in the same space as me who may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality.
Daniels said his teammates in Blackpool had embraced his sexuality after confiding in them several months ago. Club spokesmen said they are “incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is able to express himself both on and off the pitch”.
The announcement received a similar wave of support to what Cavallo received last October.
The English Football Association said Daniels was an “inspiration”.
“This is a huge positive step as we strive to build an inclusive game that we can all be proud of,” the governing body tweeted.
“We’re with you and we hope your story will give people in the game the strength and encouragement to be their true selves.”
Former England footballers Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher described it as a “historic” moment, while other organisations, including the Premier League, FIFA and FIFPro have all expressed support for Daniels.
“This season has been fantastic for me on the pitch,” Daniels said in a statement.
“But off the pitch, I’ve been hiding my real me and who I really am. I’ve known I’m gay all my life, and I now feel like I’m ready to come out and be myself.
“It’s a step into the unknown, but I’m inspired by Josh Cavallo, [England non-league player] Matt Morton and athletes from other sports such as [diver] Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to make a difference.”
The only openly gay man to have previously played as a full-time professional in England was Justin Fashanu. However, he played non-league when he made the announcement in 1990 before later reviving his career at Torquay.
The former Nottingham Forest and Norwich City attacker committed suicide at the age of 37.
More recently, German Thomas Hitzlsperger, who played for Aston Villa, and American Robbie Rogers, who played for Leeds, have come out after leaving the English game.
Daniels said he’d thought long and hard about how to tell his story, and that living with a lie had damaged his sanity.
“I was wondering if I should wait until I retire to come out.
“However, I knew this would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or live the life I want.”
Daniels said his mother and sister had responded by saying, “Yeah, we already knew that.”
“The day after I told my mother and sister, we were playing Accrington (under 18) and I scored four goals, so it shows how much weight was lifted and what a huge relief it was,” he said. he.
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