LONDON — English soccer player Jake Daniels announced he is gay on Monday in a trailblazing moment for the European men’s game.
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The 17-year-old forward is at the start of his career playing with second division club Blackpool, whose season has ended.
“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,” Daniels told Sky Sports. “I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.”
The only openly gay man currently playing in a top division in world soccer is Josh Cavallo of Australian team Adelaide United. The 22-year-old midfielder made the announcement in October ahead of their season.
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The only openly gay man to have played in English soccer’s professional leagues was Justin Fashanu, who was not active at a high 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.”
Jake Daniels said he hopes to be a role model.
“I am only 17, but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant,” he said.
“It’s been quite a crazy year. I’m 17. I’ve signed a professional contract. I’ve scored 30 goals this season and I’ve just made my first team debut in the Championship, coming off the bench against Peterborough.”
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It is a rarity in world sports for men to announce they are LBTQ+.
Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas came out in 2009, two years before he retired.
The first active NFL player to come out as gay was Carl Nassib in 2021 while he was at the Las Vegas Raiders. The defensive end was released by the team in March.
The first openly gay player in the NBA was Jason Collins while playing for the Brooklyn Nets in 2021.