The openly gay pro footballers proving you can be out and proud at the top of the men’s game
The world of men’s professional football has long been playing catch-up when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation and visibility. But there are signs that things are changing, with more openly gay male professional footballers currently playing the game than ever before.
The handful of players who’ve bravely opened up about their sexuality has another name to add to their rank in the form of Czech player Jakub Jankto, who declared: “I no longer want to hide myself” as he came out publically as gay in a moving video on social media on Monday (13 February).
Despite the progress, homophobia in men’s football at large remains rife: there are still no out gay male players in the English Premier League, and an initiative was recently set up in a bid to tackle a series of “damaging” homophobic incidents at stadiums across the country.
But as small wins continue to be scored, these players are proving that you can be out and proud at the top of the men’s game…
Josh Cavallo – Adelaide United, Australia
Josh Cavallo plays left back and central midfielder for Australian A-League team Adelaide United. The 23-year-old star came out publically as gay in October 2021 in an emotional open letter and heartfelt video posted on social media.
As he came out, Cavallo said that he wanted to use his platform to build more bridges for the LGBTQ+ community. His announcement saw him become the world’s only active out gay male top-flight professional footballer at the time.
Since opening up about his sexuality, Cavallo has used his voice to speak out against FIFA’s decision to penalise players who wore the OneLove diversity armband at the 2022 World Cup.
He also condemned the competition being held in Qatar, where same-sex sexual relations are illegal.
Cavallo has also been open about his friendship with Thomas Beattie, a retired English footballer who came out as gay after the end of his career.
The Australian star shared that he’s “worked closely” with Beattie and said the former Warriors FC player “opened [his] eyes” to the power of coming out publically.
Jake Daniels – Blackpool FC, England
Footballer Jake Daniels is a forward for English Football League Championship club Blackpool.
In May 2022, the then-17-year-old striker became the UK’s first professional male footballer to come out publically as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
At the time, Daniels told Sky Sports News that he was “ready to tell people my story” as he wants fans to “know the real me”.
Daniels explained that he wanted to come out so that he could live his life how he wanted, and in the hope that he could “be a role model” to others who may want to do the same.
Despite his young age, Daniels, now 18, has handled the media frenzy that followed with grace.
In a Channel 4 documentary, Out and Proud in Football, Daniels explains that Tom Daley’s 2021 alternative Christmas message encouraging “one impossibly brave Premier League player” to come out publically had a big impact on him, prompting him to share his story.
Zander Murray – Gala Fairydean Rovers, Scotland
Scottish footballer Zander Murray was playing for Gala Fairydean Rovers, in the Lowland League, when he publicly revealed his sexuality.
His began his career at Motherwell before moving on to Airdrieonians, where Justin Fashanu also played.
In September 2022, the 30-year-old forward became the first out gay Scottish male professional footballer.
He described how he had been “living in fear 24/7” before deciding to be open about his sexuality, and following his announcement he revealed that he also has a boyfriend.
Murray said he hoped that his openness would “inspire others” as he told Sky Sports some of his initial concerns about coming out.
“Coming out is one thing, but then accepting it walking around with your queer friends… no one gives you a rulebook on how you are going to feel in public,” he said.
“‘Oh no, what if my football friends see me, what are they going to say?’, [that’s some of the worries I had] in my early stages of coming out.”
In January 2023, Murray made history once again when he signed with League Two side Bonnyrigg Rose, making him the only openly gay footballer in Scotland’s top four divisions.
Jakub Jankto – Sparta Prague, Czech Republic
Czech player Jakub Jankto is the most recent male pro footballer to publically come out.
He currently plays for Sparta Prague, where he is on loan from Spanish La Liga outfit Getafe. He posted a moving clip to social media declaring his sexually on Monday.
In it, he bravely announced that he wants to live his life “in freedom, without fears, without prejudice, without violence, but with love”.
The 27-year-old midfielder, who has been capped 45 times by the Czech Republic national team, said in the viral clip: “I am homosexual, and I no longer want to hide myself.”
Messages of solidarity flooded in following Jankto’s post, with Sports Media LGBT+ founder Jon Holmes stating the moment was “history-making for the men’s game”.
Holmes told Sky Sports: “Jakub is the first active senior international player to come out as gay or bisexual publically. That in itself is a really significant moment for football.”
Collin Martin – San Diego Loyal, USA
Collin Martin plays for San Diego Loyal in the USL Championship. He publically came out as gay in 2018 while playing for while playing for Minnesota United FC in the Major League Soccer.
On coming out, Martin later told ESPN: “I want [my clubs] to want me as a soccer player, and as a person.”
In 2022, the 28-year-old midfielder told the Daily Express that he believes the lack of LGBTQ+ representation could be down to agents “advising” stars to stay in the closet.
He has also been vocal about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and during a December interview with PinkNews said his “biggest disappointment” during the tournament was world governing body FIFA’s apparent apathy on LGBTQ+ rights.
He said: “There has been no interest from FIFA in trying to actually improve the lives of the people that are living there.
“I think it should have been awarded to a more progressive country that’s willing to open its doors to everyone.”
Phuti Lekoloane – Tornado FC, South Africa
Phuti Lekoloane, also known as Phuti Minaj, is a goalkeeper for South African SAFA Second Division club Tornado FC.
The keeper came out publically as gay in July 2015 and remains the only gay male footballer in in the country playing at a high level.
In an interview with ESPN, Lekoloane explained that ahead of his coming out a lot of people knew he was gay, just not in football.
He was outed on a live radio show, something which, he said, caught him “off guard” but made him realise he was “braver” then he thought.
However, Lekoloane, 31, says that coming out has had a negative impact on his sporting career, telling ESPN: “A lot of clubs shut doors in my face because of my sexuality. Not everyone will be comfortable with something they don’t know, so it has hit me very hard and it has taken a lot from me.”
Offering advice to others, he said: “It doesn’t matter how many doors are shut in your face, you need to stay true to yourself.”
Click here to join our new PinkNews Alerts WhatsApp group to get a daily digest of our most-read LGBTQ+ articles straight to your phone, plus crucial news alerts.
How did this story make you feel?
MyPinkNews members are invited to comment on articles to discuss the content we publish, or debate issues more generally. Please familiarise yourself with our community guidelines to ensure that our community remains a safe and inclusive space for all.