'Proud of you': Football's biggest names react to historic coming out

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Seen here, A-League star Josh Cavallo during a match and posing for a social media photo.
Some of the biggest names in world football have thrown their support behind Josh Cavallo after the A-League star came out as gay. Pic: Getty/Instagram

When A-League midfielder Josh Cavallo made the courageous decision to come out as gay, he probably never realised how big an impact the announcement would have across the world.

On Wednesday, Adelaide United's Cavallo announced his sexuality in a post on Instagram that sees him become the only openly-gay male professional footballer in the world.

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"Today, I'm ready to speak about something personal that I'm finally comfortable to talk about in my life," Cavallo posted on Twitter and Instagram.

"I am proud to publicly announce that I am gay. 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.

Cavallo said he had wrestled with the decision to come out publicly for years and referenced the tragic story of Britain’s Justin Fashanu, who in 1990 became the first professional to come out while still playing.

Devastatingly for Fashanu, he never found acceptance within the sport and took his own life.

“I remember reading about Justin Fashanu becoming the first male pro footballer to come out, in the 1990s, and then eight years later taking his own life - that did concern me,” Cavallo admitted.

However, the young Socceroos star said the support he has received from his club, teammates and the football community has been "immense" and he was determined to be a role model for other gay athletes by sharing his story.

“It’s OK to be gay and play football - I want to show all the other people who are struggling and are scared,” he said.

Josh Cavallo is pictured here in action in the A-League.
Josh Cavallo this week became the football world's only current openly-gay professional player. Image: Instagram/Getty

Cavallo's announcement has sparked an outpouring of support from all over the world, with some of the biggest names in world football including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Antoine Griezmann, Rafael Varane and Gary Lineker among those to praise the young Aussie for his courage.

Football world rallies around Josh Cavallo

“It’s absurd that coming out is a brave thing to do in football,” England legend Lineker tweeted.

“It is though, and I’m full of admiration for Josh for treading a path hopefully many others will follow.

“I’m sure the overwhelming majority of football lovers will support him and erase the fear others may have.”

Announcement a weight off Josh Cavallo's shoulders

Cavallo admitted in his announcement on Wednesday that he'd grown up feeling the need to hide who he really was out of shame.

The 21-year-old described his momentous move as a weight off his shoulders.

"I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I'm glad I can put that to rest," he said.

"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."

Cavallo says he hopes his story can help inspire other professional sports people.

"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," he added.

"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.

The midfielder played nine games for Western United before moving to Adelaide in 2021, playing 19 games for the Reds.

He has represented the Socceroos at Under-20 level on one occasion.

Readers seeking support and information about mental health concerns can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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