Blackpool football player Jake Daniels has come out as gay in a historic moment for LGBTQ+ visibility in the British game.
The 17-year-old has become the only current openly gay male professional player in the UK.
He is also Britain’s first male professional footballer to come out publicly since the late Justin Fashanu 32 years ago.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.
“I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me.”
Jake said he first realised he was “probably five or six years old” when he knew he was gay and said he had spent a long time “living with the lie”.
He said: “At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay doesn’t mix. You just think, one day, when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine.
“But as you get older you realise you can’t just change. It doesn’t work like that.”
Jake praised his team for being “absolutely amazing” after he came out to them, saying his team mates have “all been so supportive and everyone has had my back”, adding that his captain had told him he was “so proud” of him.
“Their reaction has been brilliant. It’s the best thing I could have asked for,” he said.
Jake also hopes he will be a role model for others to help them come out, adding that he thinks it would “just be amazing” if a Premier League footballer also comes out.
“I feel like I would have done my job and inspired someone else to do that. I just want it to go up from here. We shouldn’t be where we are right now,” he added.
Last year, Australian player Josh Cavallo became the first current male player in world football has come out as gay.
The late Justin Fashanu was the first openly gay professional footballer – as well as the first Black footballer to command a £1 million transfer fee – when he came out in 1990.