Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo has come out as gay, which is historic considering he’s the first male professional Australian footballer to do so while still playing.

In a statement posted to social media on Wednesday afternoon, the 21-year-old opened up about being a closeted footballer, announcing to the world that he is gay.

“Today, I’m ready to speak about something personal that I’m finally comfortable to talk about in my life. I am proud to publicly announce that I am gay,” he wrote.

“It’s been a journey to get to this point in my life, but I 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.”

In the emotional statement, Cavallo talked about how hard it was having to hide who he is to protect his career, and how he wants to create change for other footballers in the future.

“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,” he continued.

“In football, you only have a small window to achieve greatness, and coming out publicly may have a negative impact on a career. As a gay footballer, I know there are 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.”

Yes, it’s at this point that I teared up.

“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,” he continued.

“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.”

Some people may read this news and think ‘what’s the big deal? Why should people have to come out as gay, when they don’t have to come out as straight? Isn’t this reinforcing the other-ness of queer identities?’. But coming out as a gay male professional footballer, in the world’s most popular sport, is in a different ballpark all together.

Josh Cavallo described the importance of positive coming out stories himself, in an article published by 10play.

“I remember reading about Justin Fashanu becoming the first male pro footballer to come out in the 1990s, and then eight years later, taking his own life. That did concern me,” he told Channel 10.

“But 30 years later, Thomas Beattie came out – he was only the second pro footballer in UK history to do so. He came out in June 2020, and his story touched me. He was living a life identical to mine. Since then, he has become one of my closest friends, and made me feel comfortable to be in my own skin. He is a brother, a friend, a role model, and truly an inspiration for my coming out journey.”

Coming out isn’t something that anyone *has* to do — but in Josh Cavallo’s case, he’s inspiring an entire generation, and potentially even an entire sport of players. Which is already incredible, but even more meaningful considering that so many coming out stories are followed by trauma. It’s truly historic stuff, and we’re so proud.