Adelaide United's Josh Cavallo has publicly announced himself as the only current gay male professional footballer in the world after coming out in an emotional post on social media.
The 21-year-old young Socceroos made the announcement on Wednesday, declaring he was "proud to publicly announce I am gay" in a statement on Twitter.
Cavallo is the first openly gay male athlete to play in the A-League. He said he wanted to create a safe space for others to come forward.
In his statement, Cavallo said he knew the potential negative repercussions of his announcement but hoped his decision to come out would inspire other closeted male footballers and "show that everyone is welcome in the game of football".
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"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 said. "I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I'm glad I can put that to rest.
"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.
"In football, you only have a small window to achieve greatness, and coming out publicly may have a negative impact on a career. As a gay footballer, I know there are other players living in silence. I want to help change this, to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football and deserves the right to be their authentic self.
"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. I hope that in sharing who I am, I can show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome in the football community. 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.
"Those who already knew this about me have met me with love and support every step of the way. I'm incredibly thankful for this support. To my family and friends – thank you, especially Tommy and David for making it possible for me to say proudly and publicly that I'm gay. To my Adelaide United family, thank you for greeting me with the utmost respect and acceptance. I'm incredibly grateful."