Josh Cavallo triumphantly returns to football field after devastating injury and homophobic abuse

Josh Cavallo wears a pale pink Adelaide United football uniform as he smiles and holds up a blue, red and white football in one hand

Josh Cavallo had the “biggest smile” on his face when he returned to the pitch for the first time in almost a year, after enduring homophobic abuse while recovering from an injury. 

On Monday (8 January), the out gay Australian footballer appeared on the field during the final seven minutes of Adelaide United’s match with Macarthur FC. 

It’s the first time Cavallo took action for the team after he spent 323 days away following surgery and almost a year’s worth of rehab since tearing his Achilles tendon last February.

When Cavallo took the field, the crowd at Coopers Stadium celebrated his triumphant return with a standing ovation when the display board lit up with the player’s familiar No 27. 

During his post-match interview, Cavallo shared how “great” it felt to play again after the injury.

“I’ve got the biggest smile on my face right now because it was a hard road,” he said.

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“It was a long road as well and taught me patience. I had great guidance from my partner and my family who got me how I am today. 

“And I’m really proud I could step back on that field – just want to snag a goal next time!”

Josh Cavallo also spoke about how returning to the game meant so much after feeling “quite fragile” and “quite weak” while going through rehab. 

The left back and central midfielder said the brutal rehab process made him “grateful” for the “everyday things” he took for granted, such as walking. 

“Those are things I had to learn to do again,” he said. “Stepping onto that field last night meant a lot to me, because it’s come a long way.”

Josh Cavallo, who came out publicly in October 2021, revealed he received homophobic abuse and death threats while on the sidelines due to his injury. 

The Australian footballer shared a sample of the vile messages, which included homophobic slurs and threats that he “will die”, in a harrowing post on his Instagram in December. 

Cavallo, who has campaigned for better LGBTQ+ support in sports, wrote that he shares his life on social media to help others “grow around the world”, “feel empowered in their own skin” and “be comfortable with the person they wish to be”. 

After bigoted trolls spammed his accounts with hateful abuse, Cavallo said this “behaviour can be more harmful than you think”. 

“Two years on from my coming out journey and I go through my everyday life being reminded how people wish me dead,” he said. “To all you social media platforms, all I have to say to you is do better.”

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