Josh Cavallo feels "overwhelmed" with the worldwide reaction to him coming out as gay, and says it is time for football to "change" and become a more welcoming environment for LGBT+ players.
In a landmark moment for inclusivity in football, the Australian Adelaide United midfielder came out to his coaches a few weeks ago and broke the news to his team-mates on Wednesday prior to posting an emotional video on social media.
He revealed in the video he had been fighting his sexuality for around six years and said he "couldn't be happier" with his decision after feeling "isolated" for a long time.
Cavallo is the world's only known out gay male professional footballer currently playing in a top-flight league, with only a handful of male players having previously publicly come out during their careers, and his A-League club described him as a "remarkable and brave" person.
His heartfelt video has been met with widespread positivity from across the world of football with Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Juventus, Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane and Gerard Pique among the clubs and players to have praised the 21-year-old for his courage.
He told Sky Sports News: "I want to get a message across to the world to show that it doesn't matter who you are, what you believe in or what culture or background you come from, everyone is accepted in football. It should be based on your talent not on what you look like or believe in.
"At the end of the day, we are in 2021 and it's time to change this in football. To have this day today, I'm so overwhelmed and happy with the response I've received.
"I was very shocked and taken aback by the fact that the news went around the world. I am so honoured and grateful that clubs are getting around me, players are getting around me and I'll get round to replying to everyone eventually, I am grateful for your support so thank you everyone.
"I struggled a lot not being able to look up to someone and knowing that no one has done this before so it was hard for me to come out and it took me about six years. So I understand the pain, I know what it feels like to be in the shadows and live a double life and lie to the people that you care about."
There are no active players who are publicly out as gay or bisexual in the men's game in any of the professional leagues in England or Scotland, and there has never been an out player in the Premier League.
Cavallo added: "I know there is someone behind a screen around the world where someone has gone through the same thing as I have.
"So if I can make it easier for them and show what a great response I'm getting, then that should make them more comfortable to be themselves and I hope in the next few years that no one has to do what I did today.
We admire your strength to pave the way, Josh.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 27, 2021
All of Chelsea FC is with you. 💙
"It was a very hard, isolating process. I found myself excluding myself from the team, not in a bad way but just to protect myself, I would take myself away from situations like going out for coffees with my team-mates and spending time outside football with my team-mates because I didn't want to get asked questions and tell lies and get caught up in those lies.
"So it's a very isolating and lonely process and I don't want anyone else to go through what I experienced.
"I'm still the same person and the same player. If anything, this is going to enhance my career for the better. I can play freely now so I'm just proud I can do that."
'Yes I play football and yes, I'm gay, what's wrong with that?'
Not only does Cavallo feel encouraged by the response to him publicly coming out as gay, he thinks the announcement will advance his own career and feels grateful for the support he has received from his team-mates and club staff at Adelaide United.
He added: "It started off with my coaches when I told them about four or five weeks ago. I wasn't expecting the reaction I got from them, they wrapped their arms around me and made me realise that it's OK to be yourself.
"They said: 'We're not going to treat you any differently, we're going to treat you like the Josh we knew before' and that really gave me the confidence to expand out to the team and to show that I'm not afraid to show who I am. Yes I play football and yes, I'm gay, what's wrong with that?
"I had the best training session after that [telling my coaches]. It felt so good just to tell two people and knowing that they were OK with it in the football industry, it was phenomenal.
"I can't wait to get back out on the pitch and now that everyone knows, my team-mates know and everyone is cool with it."
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, returning for its annual activation from November 25 to December 12. Your story of being LGBTQ+ or an ally could help to make sport everyone's game - please contact us here to discuss further.