Police in South Australia are investigating insults hurled at out soccer star Josh Cavallo during a recent game. According to a report in the Sydney Herald, fans yelled death threats after the 22-year-old Adelaide A-League Men’s star collided with an opposing player and left the field in a game played Saturday against the Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
“If you want to stay alive, go home g*ps*,” fans allegedly yelled, while others in the section used homophobic slurs.
Cavallo 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 was defiant as he posted to Instagram that he was “not going to pretend” he was unaware of the hateful abuse hurled at him from a subset of fans in attendance at the game played Saturday. He called on society to “hold these people accountable” for their bigoted actions.
“Hate never will win,” Cavallo wrote to his Instagram. “I will never apologize for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football. To all the young people who have received homophobic abuse, hold your heads up high and keep chasing your dreams. Know that there is no place in the game for this. Football is a game for everyone no matter of who you are, what color your skin is or where you come from.”
Adelaide’s chief executive Nathan Kosmina praised Cavallo, describing him as a “resilient young man” who has arguably become “the highest profile men’s player in the league now, in terms of the global reach of his name and brand,” although that fame has come with a price.
“We’ve spoken often about the courage he displayed in terms of coming out and everything that went along with that, the pressure that was on him as a global voice of the LGBTI+ community was significant,” Kosima told the Herald.
“I think where this [incident] went a little too far was the quantum of it. It wasn’t an individual,” Kosima continued. “It was more of a collective voice coming out of that northern stand and he said, basically, ‘Enough’s enough. I’m calling this out’. And we say, ‘We’re right behind you, Josh.’”
League officials and AAMI Park operators are currently reviewing CCTV footage from the game to identify the perpetrators.
Cavallo was hailed for his bravery when he came out last October.
“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 also received accolades when he called out World Cup host country Qatar from its anti-LGBTQ+ laws, saying he would be fearful to play for Team Australia in the country.
“I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that,” he said last year.
For now, Cavallo thanked his fans for “all the positive messages, love and support, seeing that far outweighs the negativity.
Cavallo’s boss was less forgiving of the hateful fans, however.
“It’s an element that needs to be weaned out,” Kosima declared. “Twenty or 30 years ago, this is the sort of language that was more common. Now it’s not acceptable.”