Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo became the only known current top-flight male football player in the world to come out as gay on Wednesday.
In an emotional and widely-praised video, he said was done with feeling ashamed about his sexuality and the exhaustion of trying to live a ‘double-life’.
‘I’m a footballer and I’m gay,’ the 21-year-old said in the clip posted on Adelaide’s social media and in a statement posted to his Instagram page, drawing support from fellow professionals across the world.
‘All I want to do is play football and be treated equally,’ he said.
Taking to Twitter, former England striker and BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker led an outpouring of public support for the player, saying he is hopeful Cavallo’s actions will ‘erase the fear others may have’ of coming out as gay.
Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo (pictured left in action during an A-Leage match against Perth Glory) became the only known current top-flight football player in the world to come out as gay on Wednesday
The 21-year-old player released a lengthy and emotional clip (pictured) on social saying he has been ‘hiding who he is’ and ‘living a double life’
In a four-part Instagram statement (pictured above), Cavallo said: ‘I am proud to publicly announce that I am gay,’
‘It’s absurd that coming out is a brave thing to do in football,’ the former Tottenham and Barcelona star 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.’
Barcelona and ex-Spain centre-back Pique also heaped praise on Cavallo, thanking him personally for his heartfelt video.
‘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.’
Pique’s ex-Barcelona team-mate Antoine Griezmann meanwhile simply tweeted: ‘Proud of you @JoshuaCavallo,’ followed by a fist and heart emoji.
Despite football’s immense popularity worldwide only a few footballers have come out as gay, mostly after they retire to avoid the prospect of homophobic taunts from the terraces.
Taking to Twitter, former England striker and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker (pictured in May, file photo) lead an outpouring of public support for the player, saying he is hopeful Cavallo’s actions will ‘erase the fear others may have’ of coming out as gay
The first professional player to come out while still playing was Britain’s Justin Fashanu in 1990 but he never found acceptance in the game and tragically took his own life 1998.
A charity set up by Fashanu’s family last year released a letter from an unnamed gay player in the English Premier League which highlighted how little football’s culture had changed.
Cavallo, 21, who has also played for fellow A-League side Western United and third-tier outfit Melbourne City NPL in Australia, said in his video: ‘There is something personal that I need to share with everyone. I am a footballer and I am gay.
‘Growing up I always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed – ashamed I would never be able to do what I love and be gay.
‘Coming out to my loved ones, my peers, friends, team-mates, and coaches has been incredible. The support I have received has been immense.
‘I want to show people it is ok to be yourself and play football. If anything, you will earn more respect from people [by coming out].
The versatile Adelaide United star (left) released a lengthy and emotional clip on social media
The player said his situation was ‘an absolute nightmare’, adding: ‘I feel trapped and my fear is that disclosing the truth about what I am will only make things worse.’
Cavallo said the case of Britain’s Justin Fashanu had preyed on his mind as he considered whether to come out.
‘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,’ he said.
But Cavallo described the support from the club, teammates and officials as ‘immense’, saying he wanted to be a positive role model for gay footballers.
‘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.
Cavallo said Thomas Beattie, a former youth player for English club Hull City who came out in 2020, had been a ‘role model’ in helping him on his journey and hoped their example might help change things for other young gay men in sport.
‘Statistics show only 33% of young gay men play football in comparison to 68% of young straight men,’ he said.
Cavallo (pictured) described the support from the club, teammates and officials as ‘immense’, saying he wanted to be a positive role model for gay footballers
‘That’s a lot of wasted young players missing out — players that could be very talented, but who don’t fit the norm.
‘Perhaps we can play a part in saying that football accepts everyone — that you are all welcome?’
Cavallo also posted a statement across four images on Instagram. ‘I am proud to publicly announce that I am gay,’ he wrote, declaring that he wants to create a safer space for other players to come out.
‘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 wrote. ‘I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I’m glad I can put that to rest.’
He continued to say that growing up, he had felt the need to hide because he 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,’ he said.
‘Being a gay closeted footballer, I’ve had to learn to mask my feelings in order to fit the mould of a professional footballer,’ he said. ‘I’ve lived my life assuming that this was a topic never to be spoken about.’
The footballer said that his career could suffer from his decision to come out as gay, but said he wanted to help change the came for other players suffering 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,’ he said.
The PFA, the Premier League and the EFL were among the sporting bodies to tweet their support, while top-flight club Arsenal posted a message saying: ‘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.’
Arsenal Women legend Kelly Smith and current Chelsea Women striker Sam Kerr were among the gay female stars past and present to send their support.
Fans have also taken to social media to praise the one-cap Australia U20 international, who made 15 starts for Adelaide United in 2020-21.
One wrote: ‘Josh Cavallo (Australian soccer player) has come out as gay and I could not be happier.
‘So many young men will see this and see hope. So many need it. I sincerely (but perhaps naively) hope he continues to play free from abuse and homophobia.’
Others echoed those thoughts, with one posting: ‘Josh Cavallo, you are a champion. You are a pioneer.
‘It is rotten that this is still so tough, but you are breaking through barriers, paving the way for others and no doubt helping some kids get through challenging stuff with your example. Bravo.’
Meanwhile, another user added: ‘Coming out is difficult for anyone. But for someone in the public eye as a professional sports player, coming out would be unfathomably tough.
‘The courage of Josh Cavallo is immeasurable. A genuine trailblazer. Live your best life, legend.’
Another praised Cavallo and the club for their actions, stating: ‘Big news from Josh Cavallo. Very brave of him to come out.
‘Big congratulations to him and his team for standing with him. Let’s hope more players are not scared to do the say. @AdelaideUnited is a great club for standing by your player.’
Melbourne sports reporter Oliver Caffrey meanwhile praised the support Cavallo had reached from those who do not follow the highest-level professional league in Australia and New Zealanad.
‘It’s damn difficult to do on this website, but Josh Cavallo has single-handedly created extremely positive vibes on the timeline,’ he tweeted.
‘The outpouring of support, from #ALeague people or not, has been so good to see.’
Cavallo has already impacted at least one person, with a user adding: ‘Needed a good reason to come out of my current Twitter hiatus and Josh Cavallo is a damn good reason. Well done lad!!’
However, others stated that while Cavallo’s announcement was positive, it also demonstrates how far there is still to go on the matter.
‘That a professional sportsperson coming out is *still* newsworthy shows how far we have to go, despite how far we’ve already come,’ one wrote.
Another also tweeted a warning to other A-League sides, stating: ‘I want to see every single A-League Men club, comment positively about Josh Cavallo.
‘I need to see it. To not say something, is to say something.’
Cavallo came up through the ranks at Melbourne Victory and current A-league champions Melbourne City, spending time with both of their youth teams.
He then scored six goals in 54 games for the latter’s youth system before securing an A-League move to Western United in 2019 after his contract expired in June that year.
He played 10 matches for the Green and Black before signing a short contract with 2015-16 champions Adelaide United in February, and following impressive displays in midfield and at left-back, was handed a two-year contract in May.
Cavallo was then at the end of last season awarded the club’s rising star award after a successful season which saw him record two assists in 18 appearances altogether.
Adelaide United finished fifth as a club in the A-League last season, with their 39 points from 26 games seeing them qualify for the Finals series, which consists of the top six teams at the end of the regular season.
They went on to defeat Brisbane Roar in the elimination finals, a game in which Cavallo came off the bench for the final 13 minutes, but came unstuck against Sydney FC at the semi-final stage.
The new A-League season is set to start next month on 19 November.
Figures from outside the football world also praised Cavallo’s decision to come out.
Monash University researcher Erik Denison said his coming out was a significant moment that could become a catalyst for eradicating homophobia in Australian sport.
‘Unfortunately, it is very rare for male players to come out to their teammates in both professional and amateur sport,’ Denison said.
‘A significant reason why they are hesitant to come out is the constant use of homophobic language in male sport, which makes them feel unsafe and unwelcome.’
Spanish basketball legend Pau Gasol also expressed his admiration for Cavallo.
‘In 2021, this shouldn’t be news,’ tweeted Gasol, who won two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.
‘Thank you for this step forward for the sport. Well said, @JoshuaCavallo (with three applause icons)!’