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17-year-old soccer star comes out as gay in powerful interview: 'I'm ready to come out, be myself'

Jake Daniels of Blackpool FC was welcomed and praised by soccer players and fans for coming out as gay.

17-year-old soccer star comes out as gay in powerful interview: 'I'm ready to come out, be myself'
Image source: Blackpool FC

Jack Daniels, 17, became the first British professional footballer to come out as gay in men's soccer in more than 30 years, marking an important moment in the game. The Blackpool striker came out as gay this week, becoming the only out gay soccer player in the men's game in England. Daniels has had a prolific season and felt it was the right moment to come out.  "This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch. I’ve made my first-team debut, scored 30 goals for the youth team, and signed my first professional contract. But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself," he said in a statement released on the Blackpool football club's website. Daniels is the first publicly gay footballer in the men's game since Justin Fashanu in 1990.



Football clubs, players, former players and fans have praised Daniels for coming out and for also paving way for many other footballers who are gay. "It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton, and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change," he said.



Daniels first spoke to the club captain and then club officials, who along with Stonewall, the largest LGBTQ organization in the United Kingdom, guided him to make a public announcement. He acknowledged the same during the announcement. "I’ve had some of the best support and advice from my family, my Club, my agent, and Stonewall, who have all been incredibly proactive in putting my interests and welfare first. I have also confided in my teammates in the youth team here at Blackpool, and they too have embraced the news and supported my decision to open up and tell people," he said.




Daniels said he didn't want to live a lie and wanted to embrace his true self. The 17-year-old said he knew he was gay at a very young age but assumed he'd get a girlfriend with time. He also had girlfriends to make his friends think he was straight. Daniels said he wanted to live out his true life as a gay man. "I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this," he said, before encouraging others in a similar position as him to express themselves. "There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality. I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in. You being you, and being happy, is what matters most," he wrote.



Blackpool Football Club praised the youngster for coming out and said they were "incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on-and-off the pitch." Many former soccer players lauded the youngster's courage. "I would not have been able to do that in my mid-twenties or late-twenties. What he has just done took incredible courage. We have been in dressing rooms for many, many years and that would seem like the unthinkable to announce that you are gay. I can't imagine how difficult that has been," said Gary Neville, a Manchester United legend, reported Sky Sports. "It is a day of great importance for Jake and his family but also for English football. It will go down in history. It is a big, big moment for football players. It is of massive importance, this.



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