'I'm a footballer and I'm gay' - Josh Cavallo makes powerful statement as Adelaide United star calls for change
Adelaide United star Josh Cavallo has come out as gay in a powerful statement calling for a change in how sexuality is perceived in the modern game.
Cavallo, who is now the only known gay top-flight male player currently active in world football, has opened up on how "exhausting" it has been for him to hide his true self over the course of his career.
Adelaide have shown their support for the 21-year-old by allowing him to reveal his sexuality via their official media channels, and he is now looking forward to playing for the club unburdened.
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What has been said?
"I'm a footballer and I'm gay," Cavallo said in a video posted on Adelaide's official website. "All I want to do is play football and be treated equally. I'm tired of trying to perform at the best of your ability and to live this double life, it's exhausting.
"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. That's not the case. If anything, you would earn more respect from people."
The Australian midfielder, who has made 19 appearances for Adelaide since joining the club in February, is hopeful he can help inspire the next generation of budding players from the LGBT+ community to pursue their dreams.
"I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I'm glad I can put that to rest," Cavallo added in a statement on his Twitter account. "For the people that know me personally, you'll know I'm a private person. Growing up, I 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. Hiding who I truly am, to pursue a dream I always wished for as a kid, to play football and be treated equally never felt like a reality.
"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.
"I hope that in sharing who I am, I can show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome in the football community."
What has been the reaction?
Cavallo's announcement has drawn an overwhelmingly positive reaction from many within football, with several leading names in the game sending their congratulations and well-wishes.
Among them is Barcelona star Gerard Pique, who wrote on Twitter: "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."
Who came out before Cavallo?
Very few elite male footballers have come out while still playing, with former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers having initially announced that he was gay after retiring from the game before returning to win the MLS Cup with LA Galaxy.
Ex-Newcastle Jets star Andy Brennan became the first former A-League player to come out in 2019, at which time he was turning out for a lower-tier side.
The most high profile openly gay figure in the game arguably remains Thomas Hitzlsperger, with the former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder having confirmed his sexuality in 2014 - one year after hanging up his boots.