A-League midfielder Josh Cavallo has come out as gay, becoming the only known current male top-flight professional footballer in the world to be out.
“I’m a footballer and I’m gay,” the 21-year-old said in an emotional video posted on Adelaide United’s social media.
“All I want to do is play football and be treated equally.”
Cavallo is the first active gay professional footballer to come out in Australia’s top-flight, saying he was done with feeling “ashamed” about his sexuality.
He added: “I’m tired of trying to perform at the best of your ability and to live this double life, it’s exhausting.
“I thought that people would think of me differently when they found out. They would start treating me differently.
“They would start saying bad things about me or making fun out of me. That’s not the case. If anything, you would earn more respect from people.”
‘I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now’
In a heartfelt social media post that accompanied the video, Cavallo said he “couldn’t be happier with my decision to come out”.
“I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I’m glad I can put that to rest,” he wrote.
“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.”
Few elite male footballers have come out as gay during their careers.
Former Aston Villa, West Ham, and Everton player Thomas Hitzlsperger waited until the year after he retired in 2013 before coming out publicly.
Former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers came out while initially announcing his retirement in February 2013 shortly after being released, before returning with LA Galaxy and winning the MLS Cup to become the first openly gay male athlete to win a major professional team sports title in the United States.
Andy Brennan became the first former A-League player to come out in 2019 when the ex-Newcastle Jet was still playing in a lower tier.
Cavallo said his Adelaide team-mates and coaches had been like a family to him but he grew weary of having to swerve “normal locker room talk” about players’ love lives.
“I experienced a type of sadness and depression I don’t wish on anyone,” he said on a Network Ten website.
‘I want to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football’
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.
“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 said he knew there were other players “living 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 wrote.
“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. 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. As the game of football keeps expanding, I want to help evolve the game even further, and let other players in my situation feel that they’re not alone.”