Last year, Josh Cavallo made headlines as the only openly gay professional top flight men’s footballer in the world. Coming out to not only his team and the football community but the world at large was an act of courage, one that speaks volumes of Cavallo and his character. From around the world, voices of support sounded; from top professionals to fans watching at home, fans who had never seen anyone with the same sexual orientation visible on the field, let alone owning their sexuality off it. It was a groundbreaking moment in the world of sport and while it was hoped that the ripples of such action would go on to become waves, Cavallo has instead been the target of abuse.
During an A-League Men game over the weekend at Melbourne Victory, Cavallo was being targeted by homophobic abuse. The Adelaide United player came on during the second-half at which point he received abuse from the crowd at AAMI Park. Now, Cavallo is speaking up against the abuse he received from the stands. “I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” he posted to Instagram. “There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society this shows we still face these problems in 2022. This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold this [sic] people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”
The post written by Cavallo expressed how he was also targeted after the game on social media, to which he used his platform to call out Instagram and the way it deals with homophobic abuse. “To Instagram I don’t want any child or adult to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received. I knew truly being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”
It comes after players past and present from Gerard Pique, Marcus Rashford to Gary Lineker, Robin van Persie and Joey Barton have all been quick to show their support for the young, rising star. Yet just two months later, Cavallo is finding himself facing abuse over his identity. Adelaide United has stood in solidarity with Cavallo and continue to express their fierce support, saying the abuse would not be tolerated. The players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia, added “there is no place in our game, or society, for those who direct abhorrent abuse at others.”
The Victory released a statement further condemning the abuse and has confirmed that it will now be investigating those involved. “Melbourne Victory sees football as a platform to unite fans no matter what background,” it said. “Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches.”