Josh Cavallo, the world’s only openly gay top-flight soccer player, is adamant that “hate will never win” after experiencing homophobic abuse and death threats at a recent match.
Police in South Australia are investigating after fans allegedly yelled homophobic slurs at the Adelaide United player and told him to “go home” if he wanted to “stay alive” following a collision with a Melbourne Victory player.
“I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” Cavallo wrote on Instagram on Jan. 9.
“There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022. This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win.”
Cavallo said that he will “never apologize for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”
“To all the young people who have received homophobic abuse, hold your heads up high and keep chasing your dreams,” he continued. “Know that there is no place in the game for this. Football is a game for everyone no matter of who you are, what color your skin is or where you come from.”
Cavallo, who came out publicly last year, also called out Instagram in his post.
“To @instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he wrote. “I knew truely [sic] being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”
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Cavallo thanked fans who had sent positive messages, saying their “love and support…far outweighs the negativity.”
“To the individuals that reached out after making a stand at the game. I commend you,” he concluded. “Thank you to those fans, you had me emotional. Love will always win.”
The Australian Professional League (APL), which operates top-flight soccer in Australia, said it would investigate the abuse Cavallo experienced.
“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch. There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behavior,” Danny Townsend, CEO of APL, said in a statement.
“We fully support Josh Cavallo and want to ensure he can focus on his football performance, rather than on vile abuse. We will continue to concentrate our efforts on creating safe and welcoming A-Leagues for all.”
Adelaide United called the abuse “disappointing and upsetting,” while players’ soccer union Professional Footballers Australia said there was “no place in our game, or society, for those who direct abhorrent abuse at others.”
Melbourne Victory released a statement saying soccer is “a platform to unite fans no matter what background.”
“Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches,” they added.
Cavallo received praise and support from across the soccer world after he came out publicly in October last year. In a series of social media posts, including a video shared on both his and Adelaide United’s Twitter accounts, Cavallo announced, “I’m a footballer and I’m gay.”
“All I want to do is play football and be treated equally,” Cavallo said in the video. “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.”
He 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 November, he admitted that he would be “scared” to play at the World Cup in Qatar next year, given homosexuality is illegal in the country and punishable with imprisonment and even the death penalty.
The Qatari government doesn’t recognize LGBTQ rights and censors LGBTQ content — including recently banning Marvel’s Eternals due to its depiction of a gay relationship.
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