Jake Daniels has received wide praise within the world of football after the Blackpool forward became the first player in England since the 1990s to come out as gay.
In an interview with Sky News Daniels said he believes "Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me.
"Since I've come out to my family, my club and my team-mates, that period of overthinking everything - and the stress it created - has gone. It was impacting my mental health. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally," the 17-year-old explained.
The last active English professional footballer to come out during their career was over 32 years ago when Justin Fashanu announced in October 1990 that he was gay.
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Josh Cavello who plays for Adelaide United is currently the only top-flight professional footballer in the world who is openly gay after he came out last October.
"I am hoping that by coming out, I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to. I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant," Daniels said.
In response to the news, Daniels has received an outpouring of love and support for sharing his sexuality with the world.
Gary Neville praised Daniels' "incredible courage" for his decision to come out and the ex-Manchester United defender described it as a "big, big moment for football."
"I am incredibly proud just to see a 17-year-old give that interview with that level of quality," Neville told Sky News. "What he has just done takes incredible courage, that would seem like the unthinkable back then [15-20 years ago]. I can't imagine how difficult that has been. It is a day of great importance for him and for English football. It is a big, big moment for football."
Jamie Carragher also echoed similar sentiments and gave credit to how Blackpool supported Daniels: "I know the [Blackpool] manager Neil Critchley, I had a relationship with him at Liverpool. Neil will be a huge support mechanism for Jake because he will need that going forward.
"It’s not just about Jake, it’s about the football club and their role within it and it’s an example going forward for other clubs," he added.
Gary Lineker took to Twitter to praise the Blackpool forward's season on the pitch and for his bravery "off the pitch too."
Well played, @Jake_Daniels11. It\u2019s been a brilliant season for you on the pitch, and now through your bravery, off the pitch too. I\u2019m sure you\u2019ll receive huge love and support from the football community and many others will follow your path. Good luck to you. https://twitter.com/blackpoolfc/status/1526232455002345473\u00a0\u2026— Gary Lineker \ud83d\udc99\ud83d\udc9b (@Gary Lineker \ud83d\udc99\ud83d\udc9b) 1652723524
Rio Ferdinand gave Daniels "massive respect for this brave decision," and urged everyone to "help create a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people in football and beyond."
Massive respect for this brave decision. Let's all help create a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people in football and beyond! https://twitter.com/skysportsnews/status/1526231204969820160\u00a0\u2026— Rio Ferdinand (@Rio Ferdinand) 1652717202
England captain and Tottenham player Harry Kane gave "massive credit" to Daniels and declared: "Football should be welcoming for everyone."
Massive credit to you @Jake_Daniels11 and the way your friends, family, club, and captain have supported you. Football should be welcoming for everyone.https://twitter.com/skysportsnews/status/1526231204969820160\u00a0\u2026— Harry Kane (@Harry Kane) 1652728427
Thomas Hitzlsperger who came out after he retired from football wrote: "Well done @Jake_Daniels11 Have a wonderful career! Great to see the support of @BlackpoolFC and @stonewalluk to make this possible!"
Well done @Jake_Daniels11 Have a wonderful career! Great to see the support of @BlackpoolFC and @stonewalluk to make this possible!https://twitter.com/blackpoolfc/status/1526232455002345473\u00a0\u2026— Thomas Hitzlsperger (@Thomas Hitzlsperger) 1652718163
Daniel's Blackpool teammate Kevin Stewart shared Daniel's message in solidarity.
https://twitter.com/blackpoolfc/status/1526232455002345473\u00a0\u2026— Kevin Stewart (@Kevin Stewart) 1652718618
LBGTQ+ charity Stonewall described their honour in being able to support Daniels with his decision to come out - "We are proud that Jake has felt able to share his truth with the world," it said.
We are proud that Jake has felt able to share his truth with the world. To come out publicly as the first openly gay player in men's professional football in the UK in the last 30 years takes courage. We\u2019re honoured to be supporting him! https://twitter.com/BlackpoolFC/status/1526232455002345473\u00a0\u2026— Stonewall (@Stonewall) 1652719498
Prime minister, Boris Johnson thanked Daniels for his bravery and how the footballer "will be an inspiration to many both on and off the pitch."
Thank you for your bravery Jake, it would have taken huge courage to come out and you will be an inspiration to many both on and off the pitch.https://twitter.com/SkyNews/status/1526232454037704706\u00a0\u2026— Boris Johnson (@Boris Johnson) 1652720702
Labour leader Keir Starmer said Daniel's decision shows "real courage and bravery," and added: "Thank you Jake. We are all with you."
This shows real courage and bravery and will serve as an inspiration to many young people across the country.\n\nThank you Jake. We are all with you.https://twitter.com/skynews/status/1526232454037704706\u00a0\u2026— Keir Starmer (@Keir Starmer) 1652723542
Piers Morgan tweeted: "Well done @Jake_Daniels11," along with a few applause emojis.
Well done @Jake_Daniels11 https://twitter.com/skynews/status/1526232454037704706\u00a0\u2026— Piers Morgan (@Piers Morgan) 1652720806
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea commended Daniels for his "amazing courage and bravery."
Amazing courage and bravery Jake.https://twitter.com/blackpoolfc/status/1526232455002345473\u00a0\u2026— David de Gea (@David de Gea) 1652722603
Chelsea footballer Magdalena Eriksson congratulated Daniels and recalled the fact he scored four goals after he came out to his family to say "how liberating it is to be your true self."
Coming out takes strength and bravery and doing so in the public arena isn't easy. The fact that Jake scored four goals after coming out to his family shows perfectly how liberating it is to be your true self. Congratulations @Jake_Daniels11. Feeling so happy for you today https://twitter.com/skysportsnews/status/1526232048880459779\u00a0\u2026— Magdalena Eriksson (@Magdalena Eriksson) 1652729518
Another Chelsea footballer, Pernille Harder gave "huge respect" to Daniels who she described as "brave and brilliant" and wished him the best.
Jake, you are brave and brilliant. Coming out today will be freeing and liberating for you and for football fans around the world who will be inspired to open about their identity too. Huge respect. Wishing you all the very best! https://twitter.com/blackpoolfc/status/1526232455002345473\u00a0\u2026— Pernille Harder (@Pernille Harder) 1652727980
The Premier League said in a statement: "We support Jake and believe football is for everyone. Clubs and communities are stronger when everyone feels welcome, on and off the pitch. It's up to all of us to make that happen, which is why we should all speak out against discrimination and in support of the LGBTQ+ community."
We support Jake and believe football is for everyone\n\nClubs & communities are stronger when everyone feels welcome, on and off the pitch. It's up to all of us to make that happen, which is why we should all speak out against discrimination and in support of the LGBTQ+ communitypic.twitter.com/mWJ8o70iD5— Premier League (@Premier League) 1652719179
The FA also released a statement in support of the 17-year-old, it read: "Jake, you are an inspiration to us all and we fully support your decision to be open about this part of yourself.
"Football is a game for all, with diversity at its heart, and this is a hugely positive step as we strive to build an inclusive game that we can all be proud of."
Jake, you are an inspiration to us all and we fully support your decision to be open about this part of yourself.\n\nFootball is a game for all, with diversity at its heart, and this is a hugely positive step as we strive to build an inclusive game that we can all be proud of.https://twitter.com/BlackpoolFC/status/1526232455002345473\u00a0\u2026— The FA (@The FA) 1652718313
England Football reshared Stonewall's tweet and added its words of support, "Football should be a game for all and one where you can be yourself."
Football should be a game for all and one where you can be yourself.\n\nFollowing the statement from Jake Daniels today, here is some help and advice from Stonewall about coming out as an LGBTQ+ young person.https://twitter.com/stonewalluk/status/1526242313034469377\u00a0\u2026— England Football (@England Football) 1652719859
In a statement Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion organisation wrote: "We wish Jake a long and successful career in football. He has our full and unwavering support."
"We wish Jake a long and successful career in football. He has our full and unwavering support."pic.twitter.com/5ZFmv80e1z— Kick It Out (@Kick It Out) 1652718150
"There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality. I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in.
"You being you, and being happy, is what matters most," Daniels wrote at the end of his open letter on Blackpool's website.
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