England football player Jake Daniels said he was gay on Monday in a seminal moment for European men’s football.
The 17-year-old striker made the announcement at the end of his first season as a professional player with Second Division side Blackpool.
“This season has been fantastic for me on the pitch,” he said. in a report. “But off the pitch, I hid the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I was gay, and now I feel like I’m ready to come out and be myself.
“It’s a step into the unknown to be one of the first footballers in this country to come out with my sexuality.”
While women’s football has many high-profile LGBTQ+ players, men’s professional football lacks publicly gay players and even seems to have hostile attitudes in the dressing room.
This weekend, Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gueye was dropped from the matchday squad for a match at Montpellier amid reports he refused to wear a team shirt with a rainbow number.
It was part of a French league-wide campaign against homophobia and the Senegal international has a strong Muslim faith. PSG didn’t deny the reports or make an official comment.
Daniels said he was inspired by Australian side Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo, who is the only openly gay man currently playing in a top division of world football after the 22-year-old midfielder was announced in October.
“I’ve hated lying my whole life and felt the need to change to fit in,” Daniels said. “I want to be a role model myself by doing this. There are people in the same space as me who may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality.
“I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in. Being yourself and being happy is what matters most.”
Daniels said his Blackpool teammates embraced his sexuality after he confided in them. The north-west English club said they were “incredibly proud that they have reached a stage where they are empowered to express themselves both on and off the pitch”.
The English Football Association said Daniels was an “inspiration” to the sport.
“This is an extremely positive step as we strive to create an inclusive game that we can all be proud of,” the governing body tweeted. “We are with you and hope your story helps give people through the game the strength and encouragement to be themselves.”
The only openly gay man to play in professional English football leagues was Justin Fashanu, who was not active at a top level when he made the announcement in 1990. The former Nottingham Forest and Norwich City striker was found hanged in a London garage at age 37. The Justin Fashanu Foundation calls him the “world’s first openly gay professional footballer”.
Football in England is still trying to eradicate homophobic chanting from certain matches.
“If as I come out other people look at me and think maybe they can do it too, that would be great,” Daniels told broadcaster Sky Sports.
“If they think this kid is brave enough to do it, I can do it too. I hate knowing people are in the same situation as me.” I think if a Premier League footballer comes out it would be just amazing. I feel like I would have done my job and inspired someone else to do it. I just want it to go up from here. We shouldn’t be where we are right now.”
It is rare in team sports for men to announce that they are LBTQ+.
Former Wales captain Gareth Thomas was the first active rugby professional to come out in 2009, two years before his retirement, and has become an inspiration across sport.
The first active NFL player to come out as gay was Carl Nassib in 2021 while he was with the Las Vegas Raiders. The defensive end was released by the team in March.
The NBA’s first openly gay player was Jason Collins while playing for the Brooklyn Nets in 2014.
“It took a lot of courage and courage” Stoney tweeted at Jake Daniels. “It’s good for you to step out of the mold and be authentically you! Wouldn’t it be great if we got to a place where we didn’t have to use the words ‘courage and courage’ to describe someone who is comfortable being himself.”