Jake Daniels has been widely commended for taking the “hugely positive” and courageous step of coming out as gay.
The 17-year-old forward only made his senior Blackpool debut earlier this month, and on Monday he became the first active EFL player to come out since Justin Fashnu.
It is a landmark moment for British football, and Daniels has been hailed as an inspiration by the footballing community.
Blackpool's Daniels comes out as gay in landmark moment
Thomas Hitzlsperger, the former Aston Villa player who came out as gay after retiring, said: “Well done. Have a wonderful career! Great to see the support of Blackpool and Stonewall UK to make this possible!”
LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall said they were “honoured” to be supporting Daniels, adding: “British men's football is ready to welcome openly gay and bi players. It has been ready for some time.
“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.”
Among the current Premier League players to tweet messages of support were England captain Harry Kane and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Former England and Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand said “massive respect for this brave decision”, while England’s own Twitter account said: “Football should be a game for all and one where you can be yourself.”
Among the myriad clubs tweeting their support, Liverpool said “you have our full support and backing”, Tottenham said “your courage and bravery is inspirational”, and Manchester United said: “We're proud of you, Jake. You're an inspiration to us and many others.”
Brentford added: “Football is for everyone. We celebrate and respect you Jake, thank you for sharing your story with us all and showing us the importance of being able to be yourself.”
A day of great importance for English football - Neville
"I was incredibly proud just to see a 17-year-old be able to actually do an interview of that level of quality," ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville told Sky Sports.
"I would not have been able to do that in my mid-twenties or late-twenties. What he has just done took incredible courage. We have been in dressing rooms for many, many years and that would seem like the unthinkable to announce that you are gay. I can't imagine how difficult that has been.
"It is a day of great importance for Jake and his family but also for English football. It will go down in history. It is a big, big moment for football players. It is of massive importance, this.
"I was on the PFA management committee probably 15 to 20 years ago now whereby this was a major talking point, a major issue at management committee meetings that we did not have a player comfortable enough to come out and say they were gay.
"How do we deal with this? How do we address this? The game has not dealt with this issue well at all. I think it is just about getting good with dealing with this issue from a fans' perspective."
‘It shouldn’t have to be brave but it is’
Football organisations will look towards Daniels’ bravery as a milestone moment for the sport in the UK, with a focus on inclusivity after the teenager spoke of his desire to “drive change”.
The Football Association said: “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.”
Kick It Out added: “It shouldn’t have to be brave but it is. In this historic moment, your integrity and courage are an inspiration to us all.”
'A step into the unknown'
“Off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am,” Daniels said in his statement on Blackpool’s website. “I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.”
Daniels cited Josh Cavallo, the only active top-flight footballer in the world to come out as gay, and Olympic diving champion Tom Daley among his inspirations for revealing his sexuality.
He added: “It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.
“In reaching this point, I’ve had some of the best support and advice from my family, my Club, my agent and Stonewall, who have all been incredibly pro-active in putting my interests and welfare first. I have also confided in my team-mates in the youth team here at Blackpool, and they too have embraced the news and supported my decision to open up and tell people.
“I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this.
“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.”
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