Josh Cavallo: Coming out as gay has 'taken me to a new level'

Adelaide United's Josh Cavallo talks about the experiences that led him to his decision to openly identify as gay. (1:14).
Josh Cavallo briefly held the title of world's greatest player on Wednesday.

The message was posted on his and his Australian A-League men club's social media channels. It stated that the 21-year-old Adelaide United utility changed the world of football with one sentence: "I am proud publicly announce that I am homosexual."

The young Australian football player struggled for six years with his identity. He was afraid that he would never be able "to do what I love and be homosexual" and felt "numb."

He was now sharing his truth.

He felt relief and happiness the next day, as if the anchor had lifted from his spirit.

Cavallo stated to ESPN, "I can't wipe my smile off of my face."

"It has been a long time coming. I haven’t felt this in more than six years.

It's elevated me to a whole new level. Five weeks ago, I spoke to Ross [United's assistant coach] as well as Carl [Veart], United's head coach. They welcomed me and said that Josh is still the same person and they still love him for who he is. You are a talented child and we want the best for you.

"That really touched my heart. It was heartwarming to see the team continue this way. When I shared my feelings with the team, I felt confident and they were very welcoming. They repeated the same sentiment and said, "We're proud of your accomplishments and we're glad you feel comfortable in your skin."

"It was very symbolic for me, and I'm sure going to keep it in my mind for the rest of mine."

- 17 LGBTQ+ athletes openly share their coming out journeys

Cavallo was the first male professional footballer of the top flight to come out. It's statistically impossible for Cavallo to be the only one, but he did it in a remarkable act of honesty.

The media team at United had expected a response, but were surprised by the global support. Football clubs like AC Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United sent messages of support and pride to their social media channels. Gary Lineker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Robin van Persie also sent messages. Even FIFA, the global governing body, chimed in.

Cavallo had approximately 10,000 Instagram followers at the time of these posts. It's now well over 100,000 and growing. Cavallo wants you to know, even if you're not his friend and have messaged him. He's having trouble keeping track of things right now, but he doesn't want you to forget.

Cavallo stated that "[the level of coverage] is shocking, but I wanted make a statement with my coming out."

"I wanted to show everyone that homosexuality is acceptable in the normal world, so why is it not allowed in football?" Or is it viewed differently and perceived differently?

"I want the video to demonstrate to the child who has seen it in the past few days that being yourself is okay. It's okay to be gay, or just different if you discover that. You don't need to "fit in."

"Unfortunately, six years of my adult life was spent lying, trying to hide, cover up, and act out things from people. I really didn't need that reaction yesterday. I am so happy and proud to be gay.

It's amazing to have idols like Antoine Griezmann sending you messages of support and telling you how proud he is. It's amazing. This is not only football. People like Sam Smith and Ricky Martin are also there to wish you well.

It's massive and I didn't expect this response. It's a huge problem and I want to fix it. I want to ensure that 2021 is a year from now. I believe everyone has the right to be themselves and to feel at home in their skin. This is not something that will be a major issue in the future.

Because social media is the way it was, there were inevitably fewer supportive contributions from others. People who are born out of ignorance hatred or mindless abuse can be dismissed without much consideration. They are poisoned thoughts that lack the courage or poise to target others.

There were also responses that showed insidious apathy and the predictable cry of "who cares?" It was as if male footballers, even those who have won a Rising Star Award and are on the verge a decade-plus-long professional career, would be able to come out at the exact same rate that others suffering from calf strain.

To see Cavallo's announcement video, and his emotions while sharing his story, it is enough to understand that such reactions are absurd. To see how the LGTBQ+ community reacted to Cavallo's announcement video, and how they noted his actions will inspire and protect other LGTBQ+ people, is enough to understand that such arguments can be damaging.

Beau Newell, National Program Manager, Pride In Sport stated, "We know that experiences like harassment and prejudice, and/or being unable to live openly, can impact the mental health and mental well-being of LGBTQ people."

"Research has shown that traditional sports are seen as hostile spaces for people of all ages and sexualities. Many athletes feel ashamed to play in sport because they fear being discriminated against by coaches, officials, and other players.

"This fear is justifiable for many. But, as many LGBTQ athletes have shown over the past few decades, it is not their experience.

"Sport offers an incredible opportunity to offer a safe environment for all people, even those with different genders and sexualities."

play 2:49 Josh Cavallo - 'I'm an athlete and I'm proud of being gay' Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo reveals he is gay and thanks his team, family and friends for their support.

Cavallo was my youth player at Melbourne City. I had known Cavallo for many years and was familiar with his story. I felt joy when he shared his story and the happiness it brought me. But, also, I felt deep regret that he had been going through this internal struggle and feeling of pain all of his life.

Now, however, his act of coming forward, like Andy Brennan, an A-League Men, and the increase in women's football players who are LGBTQ+, give football a chance.

Fans can use the platform to voice their disapproval and condemn the abuse directed at players. Clubs and media organizations can use it to show their support for all by identifying hateful comments and acknowledging them until they are deleted.

It allows players to bring up anti-gay hateful behaviours in their dressing rooms.

Play 2:23 Cavallo following announcement: I go sleep happy now. Josh Cavallo, 21, describes how much weight has been lifted and how he would like to be seen by the world as he continues his career.

Cavallo stated that there were times when I was on field thinking about the conversation I would have in the change room after the game. He also mentioned how he was going to avoid a question and how he wouldn't be able to stay after training as he doesn't want to be questioned.

It was a way to protect myself. You are able to isolate yourself. It's unhealthy, and it doesn't make you feel good. This was something I couldn't do anymore and had to deal with. I wanted to live a normal life, and not be restricted by what everyone else is doing.

"I've never felt happier than this moment in all my life."

Cavallo has a long and successful career ahead of him. Now it is up to the football community to not slam him in the face. Every person facing their own journey will be watching.

Cavallo stated that he would prefer to be called Josh the footballer and not Josh the gay footballer. It's something that I want to share, and I feel comfortable sharing it with the world, because it makes me happy. I go to bed happy.

"There was a time in my life that it wasn't like this. Now that I have, I am realizing why it took me so long. I was in a dark place for a while and didn't want to be.