Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki
Australian footballer Josh Cavallo has come out as gay, making him the world's only openly gay top-level professional footballer.
In a video and written statement posted on social media, the Adelaide United player says he's been fighting his sexuality for six years but is happy to be in a place where he could be open.
The 21-year-old, who plays midfield for Adelaide, initially appears tortured in his video message. Introducing himself he says: "There's something personal that I need to share with everyone. I'm a footballer and I'm gay."
"The response and support I have received is immense"
The sportsman continued: "Growing up I always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed - ashamed I would never be able to do what I love and be gay. Hiding who I truly am to pursue a dream I always wished for as a kid."
Explaining that all he's wanted to do is "play football and be treated equally," Cavallo said he's tired and exhausted from living a "double life". Thinking people would treat him differently if they knew about his sexuality, he says his experience since beginning to come out has been the opposite and he's been treated with more respect.
"Coming out to my loved ones, my peers, my friends, my teammates, my coaches has been incredible. The response and support I have received is immense."
Josh's Truth pic.twitter.com/NKSEP2kVWV— Adelaide United (@AdelaideUnited) October 27, 2021
Wanting to inspire people to be themselves and play football, Cavallo says he wants to show anyone who is struggling or scarfed that they should be themselves, not someone else.
He added he's "excited to open up, to show everyone, Josh Cavallo. To show the true Josh Cavallo."
In a written statement Cavallo said when he was growing up, "being gay and playing football were just two worlds that hadn't crossed paths before."
He adds that it's been a "journey to get to this point in my life, but I couldn't be happier with my decision to come out."
He also mentioned being concerned about a negative impact on his career if he came out, saying he knows "there are other players living in silence," and that he wants to help change this.
Currently, there are no openly gay footballers (besides Cavallo) at the top tiers of the sport. The BBC reports that the former Newcastle Jets player, Andy Brennan, who came out in 2019, became Australia's first professional male footballer while still an active player.
But he now plays for semi-professional side Hume City.
The late Justin Fashanu, came out publicly as gay in 1990 while he was still playing. The star took his own life on 2 May 1998.
Apart from Fashanu, players have come out after they've finished competing, including former Aston Villa star Thomas Hitzlsperger.
Homophobia in football continues to be a well-recognised issue.
Former England-pro, Rio Ferdinand, has also recently said he's met a gay footballer who's been "advised not to come out".
Elsewhere, Quinn, a trans-non-binary footballer, made history as part of the Canadian Olympic football team to be the first trans-Olympic medallist.
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