Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo has become the only openly gay top-flight male professional in the world.
Cavallo, a left back and central midfielder for Adelaide United, came out as gay on social media, saying he wants to “show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome” in the soccer community.
In a video posted to his Twitter and the official Twitter account for Adelaide United, Cavallo announced, “I’m a footballer and I’m gay.”
“All I want to do is play football and be treated equally,” he said. “I’m tired. Trying to perform at the best of your ability and to live this double life, it’s exhausting. It’s something that I don’t want anyone to experience.”
Cavallo, 21, added: “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. I have been fighting with my sexuality for six years now, and I’m glad I can put that to rest.”
In a separate post on Twitter, Cavallo said he was “ready to speak about something personal that I’m finally comfortable to talk about in my life.”
“I am proud to publicly announce that I am gay,” he wrote. 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. I have been fighting my sexuality for over 6 years now, and I’m glad I can put that to rest.”
Cavallo said that he “always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed. Ashamed I would never be able to do what I loved and be gay.”
He said that he had to “learn to mask my feelings in order to fit the mould” of a professional soccer player.
“Growing up being gay and playing football were just two worlds that hadn’t crossed paths before,” Cavallo wrote. “I’ve lived my life assuming that this was a topic never to be spoken about.”
Cavallo said that he knew of other players “living in silence” and he wanted to “help change this.”
“It is astonishing to know that there are currently no gay professional footballers who are out and actively playing, not only in Australia, but around the world. Hopefully this will change in the near future,” Cavallo wrote.
“I hope that in sharing who I am, I can show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome in the football community,” he continued. “As the game of football keeps expanding, I want to help evolve the game even further, and let other players in my situation feel that they’re not alone.”
Australia’s professional players union called Cavallo’s coming out a “wonderful moment” for him, soccer, and “the LGBTI+ community.”
Cavallo said he’d received “immense support” from his teammates, including Ben Halloran, who praised Cavallo’s “great courage” and lamented that it was “sadly still very rare in the sporting world for men to come out.”
Adelaide United assistant coach Ross Aoisi said, “Before Josh spoke with me, it was clear he was living with an incredible burden and unimaginable pain. To see Josh today, with that weight lifted off his shoulders, it makes me proud of how brave a man he is.
“Josh’s mental health and wellbeing is the most important thing to us as his coaches and teammates. Josh will always be Josh to us.”
Other professional soccer players and teams have also reached out with words of encouragement and support.
Spanish professional footballer Gerard Piqué tweeted: “Hey @JoshuaCavallo, I don’t have the pleasure to know you personally but I want to thank you for this step that you take. The world of football is far behind and you are helping us move forward.”
French professional footballer Antoine Griezmann tweeted: “Proud of you @JoshuaCavallo,” alongside one of the images from Cavallo’s Twitter post.
English soccer club Arsenal thanked Cavallo for his “strength and bravery” in a tweet, adding, “You are an inspiration to millions. Everyone deserves the right to be themselves. The world of football is a better place today, because of you.”
Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona, for which Piqué plays, tweeted: “THANK YOU, @JoshuaCavallo, for taking a huge step forward! Your courage contributes to normalizing diversity in the world of sports.”
Cavallo is currently the only active openly gay professional soccer player in the world, but other former players have previously come out.
Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in 2014, after retiring from the sport.
In 1990, Justin Fashanu came out as gay, becoming the only active openly gay professional soccer player. In 1998, he died by suicide after being accused of sexual assault.
In 2013, American soccer player Robbie Rogers came out as gay after retiring from the sport. He later restarted his career, joining Major League Soccer team LA Galaxy and becoming the first openly gay player in the MLS and the first openly gay male athlete to win a major professional sports title in the U.S., after Galaxy won the MLS Cup.
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