Footballer Josh Cavallo says he’s ‘never smiled so much’ after coming out: ‘My cheeks are sore’

side by side images of openly gay football star Josh Cavallo

Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo has “never smiled this much” over the outpouring of love and support he’s received after publicly coming out as gay.

The 21-year-old midfielder told BBC Breakfast that he was relieved to be able to close the “old book” of hiding his truth and to be able to open the “real book of Josh Cavallo”.

“I’ve never smiled this much in my life,” Cavallo added. “I’ve had the best rest sleep last night knowing that I could finally be myself and not live a life of lies to the people I care about the most.”

He jokingly added the only downside of feeling so happy was that his “cheeks are very sore today”, but he admitted it is “a good thing to have”.

Josh Cavallo proudly declared that he is gay on Wednesday (27 October) in a heartfelt social media post. He described how he had learned to “mask my feelings” as a “gay closeted” athlete to “fit the mould of a professional footballer”.

His initial post was later accompanied by an emotional video shared by Adelaide United. He said he “always felt the need to hide myself” growing up because he was “ashamed I would never be able to do what I love and be gay”.

But instead, he described receiving an “immense” amount of support from his loved ones, teammates and coaches since coming out.

The pro footballer has been praised for his bravery by fans, clubs and other professional athletes across the world. Major clubs including Liverpool, Arsenal and AC Milan all praised Cavallo for having the courage and strength to come out.

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford said he has “so much respect” for his fellow footballer and hoped he will “enjoy this freedom now”.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Josh Cavallo described being so stunned by the support that he is “still pinching myself” to make sure he isn’t dreaming.

Cavallo said he was astounded to see personal heroes of his, Barcelona’s Gerard Pique and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, say that they are proud of him.

“The likes of Pique from Barcelona, Griezmann – we are talking Griezmann here, who won a World Cup,” he said. “He is recognising me and telling me he’s proud of me. That is incredible. I am so stoked to see it.”

He continued: “I am still stoked to see that. I am still pinching myself.

“It made me think, ‘Why have I been hiding it this long?’ I lived six years like that in the darkness.

“It affected my mental health, and there was no need, it was just fear.”

Josh Cavallo is currently the only active professional footballer to come out as gay, but he isn’t the first.

Justin Fashanau bravely came out in 1990. Less than eight years later, after being hounded with homophobic abuse, he took his own life.

Thomas Beattie, a retired English player who played at the professional level in Scotland, Norway, Canada and Singapore, came out in 2020. Robbie Rogers, an American player who played for Leeds FC, came out as gay after he retired in 2013.

Germany’s Thomas Hitzlsperger is also among the most high-profile gay football players, having come out the year after he retired.