Jake Daniels Becomes First Openly Gay Male English Professional Football In 32 Years - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Jake Daniels Becomes First Openly Gay Male English Professional Football In 32 Years

Inspired by Australia’s own Josh Cavallo, Blackpool FC star Jake Daniels has publicly come out as gay, inspiring countless others around the world to live authentically.

When Australia’s own Josh Cavallo came out as gay last year, sports enthusiasts and fans around the world sat up in attention. Despite football being known as the world’s game, uniting audiences around the world through the universal language that is headers, fancy footwork and the kind of athletic prowess players like Messi and Ronaldo have made look effortless, the fact remains that very few players in professional sport have spoken openly about their sexuality. Cavallo, in coming out as gay, became the first current A-League star to make such an announcement. It was an inspiring moment for many, illustrating not only Cavallo’s courage but a changing environment in which players are now supported to live as their true and authentic selves. 

Thanks to Cavallo’s bravery in speaking out, Blackpool striker Jake Daniels has also come out as gay, becoming the first active professional male footballer in England to come out. The 17-year-old was inspired by Cavallo’s example, writing on Blackpool’s website: “I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in.”

Daniels added, “I want to be a role model myself by doing this. There are people out there in the same space as me that 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. You being you, and being happy, is what matters most.”

It’s a powerful message and speaks volumes of the support available to those who come out. Daniels said his teammates at Blackpool had embraced his sexuality after he confided in them several months ago. This was echoed by spokespeople from the club who expressed that they were “incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on and off the pitch.”

Just as Cavallo’s announcement was met with widespread support from Australian football stars and those abroad, so too has Daniels’ announcement. England’s Football Association said the footballer coming out was an “inspiration.” The governing body wrote in a Tweet: “This is a hugely positive step as we strive to build an inclusive game that we can all be proud of. We are with you and we hope your story will help to give people across the game the strength and encouragement to be their true self.”

Former England footballers Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher were also quick to voice their support, heralding the moment as an “historic” one that will likely encourage others to come forward, while also feeling seen and represented in a game as global as football. 

“This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch,” said Daniels in a statement. “But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.” 

Daniels continued: “It’s a step into the unknown but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, [England non-league player] Matt Morton, and athletes from other sports, like [diver] Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.”

While other English players have come out in recent years, these announcements have been made since leaving the English game and entering retirement. In the case of Daniels, he was empowered to come out while still playing full-time. “For a long time I’ve thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer,” he said. “I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.” 

As Daniels recalls, the moment he came out felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders and his performance on the field has only gone from strength to strength. “The day after I told my mum and sister, we played Accrington (under-18s) and I scored four goals, so it just shows how much of a weight off the shoulders and what a massive relief it was,” he said. 

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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