Jake Daniels: A rare moment when a 17-year-old British footballer comes out as gay

Jake Daniels came out as gay, making him the only active male professional footballer in the UK to do so, and one of the few in the world.

The 17-year-old Blackpool forward made a groundbreaking statement at the end of his first season at the Championship club.

“This season has been fantastic for me on the pitch,” he said in statement.

“But off the field, I hid the real me and who I really am. I’ve known all my life that I’m gay, and now I feel like I’m ready to open up and be myself.”

“It’s a step into the unknown to be one of the first footballers in this country to come out as gay.”

Daniels said he was inspired by Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo, who is the only openly gay man currently playing in top division football worldwide.

While women’s football has many prominent LGBT+ players, men’s professional football lacks players who are publicly gay.

“I hated lying all my life and feeling the need to change in order to fit in,” Daniels said.

“I want to be a role model by doing this. There are people in the same space as me who might not be comfortable exposing their sexuality.”

“I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are or who you should be just to fit in. Being yourself and being happy is what matters the most.”

Daniels said teammates at Blackpool accepted his sexuality after he came out to them. The English club said they are “incredibly proud that he has reached the stage where he can express himself both on and off the pitch”.

“Being yourself and being happy is the most important thing”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the English Football Association have also called Daniels “an inspiration”.

“This is an extremely positive move as we strive to create an inclusive game that we can all be proud of,” the FA said in a Twitter post.

“We’re with you and we hope your story will help people across the game become stronger and inspired to be themselves.”

Activists have long lamented the lack of progress in men’s football due to homosexuality.

In 1990, English football player Justin Fashanu was the last male professional to come out publicly as a homosexual. Fashanu later committed suicide in 1998.

Meanwhile, the former German International Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in 2014.one year after retirement.

“Well done, Jake Daniels, good career!” Hitzlsperger wrote on Monday. Nice to see the support of Blackpool FC and [the LGBT+ charity] Stonewall to make it possible!”

“There are people in the same space as me who might not be comfortable with revealing their sexuality,” Daniels said.

“I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are or who you are supposed to be just to fit in. Being yourself and being happy is the most important thing.”