Australian football player game out as gay - the only one at that level
28 October 2021
21-year-old Australian professional football player Joshua Cavallo announced in a video message on Wednesday that he is gay. This makes the Adelaide United player one of the very few top-level men’s footballers who dare to come out openly for their homosexuality.
The 21-year-old Victorian is still in the infancy of his career, having come through the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City youth team set-ups before making his A-League debut for Western United in the 2019-20 season. His off-season move to Adelaide preceded a breakout campaign with the Reds, for whom he made 19 appearances including 15 starts.
Cavallo on Wednesday became a rarity in men’s professional sport, announcing on social media he was “ready to speak about something personal that I’m finally comfortable to talk about in my life”. The Twitter post and emotive personal video, shared by his club Adelaide United, has since made international headlines and elicited support from all corners of the game. “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,” he wrote. “I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I’m glad I can put that to rest.”
“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.”
Adelaide United expresses support for Cavallo in a statement. “We are extremely proud of Josh,” writes director Kosmina. “Today is not only an important day in Josh’s life, but it is also a historic moment for Australian football.”
The public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Globally there are only a handful of openly gay male footballers, none of whom are playing in the top flight. Thomas Hitzlsperger, the German former Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton player is among the most high profile but waited until the year after he retired in 2013 before coming out publicly.
American former Leeds player Robbie Rogers also announced he was gay on retiring in 2013, before returning to the field 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. In 2019, former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan became Australia’s first professional male footballer to come out while still playing the game.
Cavallo said he had been worried that coming out may negatively impact his career, adding that 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.”