Football star Josh Cavallo said Monday he was gay in a bid to destigmatize sexuality in the sport, after being cleared by one of the world’s top players.
“I’m gay. I never hid it. It was the hardest thing for me to do. I know how misunderstood I am,” the 26-year-old wrote in a blog for Fairfax Media.
“But it’s true, I am gay. That’s more important to me than how others perceive it,” he added.
Cavallo said his plan, inspired by the reaction to openly gay Brazilian footballer Rafael Vazquez, came after he was told he had to “bend over backwards” to shed the image of being a heterosexual.
The Guardian reported that Cavallo had been asked about his sexuality at club matches but “kept his answers private”.
“We are only human and it wasn’t a barrier to earn a job or become a footballer,” he said, adding he was now excited by the prospect of “being myself.”
Sports athletes are not necessarily held in high regard by the general public, with only 70% thinking they are good role models for children, according to research by The Mathematicians.
“I’d be lying if I said that I knew what people would think and that they would appreciate me as I am, and who I am,” Cavallo said.
“But I did know that I would be surprised if they didn’t. I was curious to see what they would think and how they would handle it.
“I am aware that having an identity within a community, race, religion, gender, is often misrepresented, or hard to understand.”
Cavallo, who played three seasons with French club Lille, said it was a “battle” to come out but praised the many conversations he had with “close friends and colleagues” about his sexuality and his plans.
Australian Rules footballer Israel Folau came out last year but has declined to discuss his reasons for revealing his sexuality while players in other sports are not expected to follow suit.
Cavallo said there was growing acceptance of same-sex relationships and he hoped his coming out would help people learn “more about me, the footballer, and my journey.”
Australian Football League executive, general manager football operations, Mark Evans, said “it’s fantastic” that Cavallo, a multi-millionaire who last season joined Iranian League club Esteghlal, would be “pushing the boundaries of acceptance and openness in our game.”
“I know he will be a great role model for all young people who are questioning their sexuality,” Evans added.
“Josh has played in three World Cups and is a respected and highly-rated player in this country’s sport,” he said.
“For those who are struggling, Josh’s coming out is a powerful message of hope and empowerment.”