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Blackpool’s Jake Daniels, first professional footballer to come out as gay in England

Jake Daniels militates in the Championship, the English Second Division, defending the shield of the Blackpool, but the name of this 17-year-old has not stopped sounding in recent hours throughout England, and throughout the world, because he has become the first active professional player in that country to declare himself gay. A recognition that he has had the full support of his teammates.

Jake Daniels, Blackpool youth squad, follows in the footsteps of Australian Josh Cavallo, who a few months ago became the first professional player to come out as gay. In statements to ‘Sky Sports’ television, the midfielder has shown how happy he is for the support received by his teammates and has assured that he hopes to become a role model.

Daniels is the first active footballer in Europe to come out as gay since he did. Justin Fashanu in 1990.

“This year I have made my debut with the first team and I have scored 30 goals with the youth team, in addition to signing my first professional contract. But off the field I’ve been hiding the real me. I’ve known all my life that I’m gay and I’m ready to come out of the closet and be myself”, explained the player in the text released by ‘Sky Sports’.

Jake Daniels statement

Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I’m ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking 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, to be free and confident in everything.

I can’t really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I found out I was gay. So I’ve lived with the lie for a long time. At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay don’t mix. You just think, one day when I’m older I’ll have a girlfriend and I’ll change and everything will be fine.

But as you get older you realize that you can’t just change. It does not work like that. I had girlfriends in the past, to try to make all my peers think I was straight, but it was just a big cover-up. At school people would even ask me, “Are you sure you’re not gay?” And I answered, “no, I’m not.” I wasn’t ready and it was a struggle, but I just don’t want to lie anymore.

For a long time I thought that I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer. I wondered if I should wait until after I’ve retired to tell. No other player in professional soccer has done it. However, I knew that it would lead me to lie for a long time and not be able to be myself or lead the life I want. Since coming out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created is gone. It was affecting my mental health. Now I am confident and happy to finally be myself.

I first told my mother and sister, with whom I live. “Yes, we already knew,” was how they reacted. Then we told my whole family and at the time I was pretty scared because I didn’t know how the older generation would react. I shouldn’t have worried. I’ve gotten so many messages saying, “we’re proud and supportive.” It has been amazing. I couldn’t have wished for it to be better. The day after I told my mom and sister, we played Accrington. [en un partido de juveniles] and I scored four goals, so it just goes to show how much weight was lifted off my shoulders and what a relief it was.

And Blackpool have also been absolutely amazing. I am with them every day and I felt safe. My teammates have been very supportive and everyone has supported me. They have been asking a lot of questions, everyone has been intrigued and their reaction has been brilliant. It’s the best I could have asked for. Of course, everyone was a little surprised in some way and wondered why I didn’t tell them earlier. That was a great reaction because it showed how much they cared.

The captain was one of the main people I told and he also asked me a lot of questions. At the end he just said, “I’m so proud of you.” It meant a lot. I like when people ask questions. I just want to get it all out there and for people to hear my story.

It’s been a pretty crazy year. I’m 17. I have signed a professional contract. I’ve scored 30 goals this season and I just made my first team debut in the Championship, coming off the bench against Peterborough. And now I’ve decided to come out of the closet.

Everything has happened at once, but it feels good. When this season started, I just wanted to prove myself as a player. So this was the last thing in my head that I knew I had to do. Now it’s out, and people know it. Now I can live my life how I want and you know what? It has been amazing.

The topic of being gay, bi or que in men’s soccer is still a taboo. I think it comes down to a lot of footballers wanting to be known for their masculinity. And people see being gay as a weakness, something you can be teased about on the football field. Of course I am aware that there will be a backlash to this and some of it will be homophobic, maybe in a stadium and on social media.

It’s an easy thing for people to aim for. The way I look at it is I’m playing football and they’re yelling things at me, but they’re paying to watch me play football and I live my life and make money off of it. So yell what you want, it’s not going to make a difference. I won’t stop people from saying those things, I just need to learn not to let it get to me.

I hope that when I get out, I can be a role model, to help others get out if they want. I’m only 17 years old, but I know that this is what I want to do and if, when I come out of the closet, other people look at me and feel that maybe they can do it too, that would be great. If you think this kid is brave enough to do this, I can do it too.

I hate knowing that people are in the same situation that I was in. I think if a Premier League footballer comes out, it would be amazing. I feel like I would have done my job and inspired someone else to do it. I just want it to come up from here. We should not be where we are now. I know every situation is different and there are a lot of different factors that other people have to consider that will scare them a lot, especially in football.

And if you think you’re ready, talk to people. I know it is such a difficult thing to do, it was a difficult thing for me, but just talk to the people closest to you, you will get the support you need.

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