Blackpool FC’s Jake Daniels has become the first active male professional football player in the UK to publicly come out as gay since in more than 30 years.
The 17-year-old striker is the first British male footballer to come out publicly since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
He said by coming out he hopes to become a role model, and inspire others who may be hesitant to do the same.
Speaking to Sky News, Daniels described going public as “a weight off the shoulders” and “a massive relief”.
“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,” he said, “I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come 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.”
This season, Daniels has scored 30 goals for the under-19s side and signed a professional contract with Blackpool in February.
Speaking about reactions to the news, Daniels said: “The subject of being gay, or bi or queer in men’s football is still a taboo.
“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.”
Daniels told the sports channel that he hopes to inspire others by telling his truth.
He said: “I am hoping that by coming out, I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to. I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant.
“If they think this kid is brave enough do this, I will be able to do it too.
“I think if a Premier League footballer does come out that would just be amazing. I feel like I would have done my job and inspired someone else to do that. I just want it to go up from here. We shouldn’t be where we are right now.
“I know that every situation is different and that there are a lot of different factors for other people to consider that will scare them a lot, especially in football.
“And if you think you are ready, then speak to people. I know that’s such a hard thing to do, it was a hard thing for me to do, but just speak to the closest people around you, you are going to get support you need.”
A spokesperson for Blackpool FC said the club was “incredibly proud”.
They said: “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.”