Blackpool forward Jake Daniels has become the first male professional footballer to come out as gay in 32 years.
The 17-year-old, who signed his first professional deal with Blackpool in February, made his senior debut for the Championship club earlier this month.
Daniels becomes the first male professional player in English football to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
‘Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me,’ Daniels told Sky Sports News.
‘I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.
‘I can’t really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay. So it’s been a long time that I have been living with the lie.
‘At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay doesn’t mix. You just think, one day, when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine.
‘But as you get older you realise you can’t just change. It doesn’t work like that.
‘I’ve did have girlfriends in the past, to try and make all my mates think I was straight, but it was just a massive cover-up. In school people even used to ask me: “Are you sure you aren’t gay?”. And I would reply, “no, I’m not”.
‘I wasn’t ready and it was a struggle but I just don’t want to lie any more.’
JAKE DANIELS’ MESSAGE TO BLACKPOOL FANS
This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch. I’ve made my first-team debut, scored 30 goals for the youth team, signed my first professional contract and shared success with my team-mates, going on a great run in the FA Youth Cup and lifting the Lancashire FA Pro-Youth Cup.
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.
It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.
In reaching this point, I’ve had some of the best support and advice from my family, my Club, my agent and Stonewall, who have all been incredibly pro-active in putting my interests and welfare first. I have also confided in my team-mates in the youth team here at Blackpool, and they too have embraced the news and supported my decision to open up and tell people.
I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. 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.
Fashanu became the first male British professional footballer to come out in 1990 before he took his own life eight years later at the age of 37.
Fashanu’s niece Amal, who runs the Justin Fashanu Foundation, fighting homophobia and racism in football, said of Daniels’ announcement: ‘This is very encouraging news and shows the positive steps that have been taken in society and in football.
‘I am sure he will get a positive reaction and it may pave the way for others.’
Last October, Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo became the only current top-flight male professional footballer in the world to come out.
The 22-year-old revealed in January that he was targeted by homophobic abuse during Adelaide’s A-League game against Melbourne Victory.
‘There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society this shows we still face these problems in 2022,’ Carvallo posted on Instagram after the game.
‘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.’
Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger and ex-Hull City youth player Thomas Beattie both revealed they were gay after their careers had ended.
For more stories like this, check our sport page.
Follow Metro Sport for the latest news on
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.