Rising Australian A-League soccer star Josh Cavallo just came out as gay and is being hailed as the first top-flight professional soccer player to publicly do so.
“Hi, everyone,” Cavallo said in a video posted to his social media. “It's Josh Cavallo here. I'm at my home here in Adelaide. There's something personal that I need to share with everyone. I'm a footballer and I'm gay.”
Cavallo, 21, plays left back and central midfielder for the Adelaide United soccer team in the country's A-League, the highest level of professional soccer in Australia and New Zealand. He just signed a long-term contract with the team after a successful short stint where he started 15 games, made 18 overall appearances, and was chosen as the team’s rising star for the season. Despite the honor, however, Cavallo was conflicted and distraught.
“I remember coming back from the Awards Night and my phone was blowing up – there was lots of positivity happening in my life,” Cavallo wrote in a statement posted to 10Play. “But when I got home, I just felt numb. I had no emotions. My life was great, but it wasn’t a life where I got to be my authentic self. Instead of celebrating, I sat in my bed crying that night. Having to constantly lie to the people I cared about wasn’t the way I wanted to live the rest of my life. My double life started to have a huge influence on my mental health. Although the football was amazing, I still wasn’t happy.”
He wrote how Adelaide United had become a second family to the young star, with the coaches becoming “fatherly figures” and his teammates his brothers. But he felt he couldn’t get too close to his second family for fear they would find out his secret.
“I had to learn to live a life of lies,” Cavallo wrote. “To live that double life and lie to your brothers is horrible. It’s something I don’t want anyone to experience.”
Cavallo wrote that he is not one “to show weakness” and he feared coming out would show weakness to his teammates.
“Growing up I always felt the need to hide myself, you know, because I was ashamed, and ashamed I'll never be able to do what I love and be gay,” Cavallo said in his video. “Hiding who I truly am to pursue a dream I always wished for as a kid. All I want to do is play football and be treated equally.”
It wasn’t until he came out that Cavallo realized the true meaning of strength and respect.
“I thought that people would think of me differently when they found out: they would start treating me differently, they would start saying bad things about me or making fun out of me,” Cavallo said. “That's not the case.”
He described the response and support he has received from his teammates, fans, friends, and family as “immense” and making him question why he didn’t come out sooner.
Cavallo hopes his example will “inspire and show people that it's okay to be yourself and play football. It's okay to be gay and to play football.”
Earlier this year American football player Carl Nassib came out via a post to Instagram, stating simply that he is gay. He became the first out player in the National Football League signed to a regular-season roster and to have played in a regular season.
Much like Nassib, Cavallo encouraged others struggling with their identity to not be ashamed or scared or feel they need to lead a double life.
“Be yourself,” Cavallo said. “You're meant to be yourself, not someone else.”
This article has been updated to reflect Cavallo's correct age and note that he was not the first out gay professional soccer player.
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