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Championship striker Jake Daniels becomes first openly gay male professional footballer in game right now

Yorkshire Live logo Yorkshire Live 16/05/2022 Alex Turk & Sean Mcginlay & Matt Drake

A Blackpool striker has become the first male professional footballer to be openly gay in Britain for 30 years. Jake Daniels is the first publicly gay player since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

The 17-year-old has delivered a brave message and named Tom Cavallo, Matt Morton and Tom Daley as inspirations to make the public announcement. Daniels has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Blackpool, netting 30 goals at youth level and making his senior debut in the Championship, Express.co.uk reports.

He is the first male professional footballer in Britain to publicly confirm they are gay in over 30 years since Fashanu did the same in a tabloid interview in October 1990. Daniels is now the only such active player in the Football League and hopes he can inspire others to follow suit.

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A message on Blackpool's official website read: "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, signed my first professional contract and shared success with my teammates, going on a great run in the FA Youth Cup and lifting the Lancashire FA Pro-Youth Cup.

"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. 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.

Chelsea show support to gay Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels after announcement © Sky Sports News Chelsea show support to gay Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels after announcement

"In reaching this point, 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.

"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. 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."

The young forward made the historic step in an interview with Sky Sports News, having signed a professional deal with the Seasiders earlier in the season. Daniels spoke of the importance the support of his football club has had in this moment as well as the support he has had within the Blackpool dressing room, Lancashire Live reports.

He continued: "Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me. "I have been thinking for a long time 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, be free and be confident with it all. I can't really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay. So it's been a long time that I have been living with the lie.

"At that age you don't really think that football and being gay doesn't mix. You just think, one day, when I'm older I'll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine. But as you get older you realise you can't just change. It doesn't work like that.

"I've did have girlfriends in the past, to try and make all my mates think I was straight, but it was just a massive cover-up. In school people even used to ask me: 'Are you sure you aren't gay?'. And I would reply, 'no, I'm not'.

"I wasn't ready and it was a struggle but I just don't want to lie any more. For a long time I've thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer. I asked myself if I should wait until I've retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out. However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.

"Since I've come out to my family, my club and my team-mates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental heath. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally. I first told my mum and my sister, who I live with. 'Yeah, we already knew,' was how they reacted.

"And Blackpool have been absolutely amazing too. I am with them every day and I felt safe. My team-mates have all been so supportive about it and everyone has had my back. They've been asking tons of questions, they have all been intrigued and their reaction has been brilliant. It's the best thing I could have asked for.

"Of course, everyone was kind of shocked in a way and they were asking 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 loads of questions. In the end he just said, "I'm just so proud of you". It meant so much."

He added: "The subject of being gay, or bi or queer in men's football is still a taboo. I think it comes down to how a lot of footballers want to be known for their masculinity. And people see being gay as being weak, something you can be picked on for on the football field.

"Of course I am aware that there will be a reaction 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 target. The way I see it is that I am playing football and they are shouting stuff at me, but they are paying to watch me play football and I am living my life and making money from it. So shout what you want, it's not going to make a difference."

Blackpool followed his message with a statement of their own. It read: "Blackpool Football Club has worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant footballing organisations to support Jake and is incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on and off the pitch.

"It is vital that we all promote an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves and that football leads the way in removing any form of discrimination and prejudice."

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