Australian Josh Cavallo, a 21-year-old soccer player for Adelaide United, has publicly identified as gay, officially making him the first male professional footballer to be out and actively playing anywhere in the world.
The midfielder wrote in a powerful post on Twitter that he had “been fighting [his] sexuality for six years now” and hopes his decision to share his authentic self with the world will help others, especially other soccer stars, come out to their friends, family and colleagues.
"As a gay footballer, I know there are other players living in silence. I want to help change this, to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football and deserves the right to be their authentic self,” he posted. “I hope that in sharing who I am, I can show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome in the football community.”
A wave of support has engulfed Cavallo, with fans, politicians and sporting organisations applauding his courage.
Adidas, a giant in the global sportswear market, thanked Cavallo for “leading the way,” explaining that his words “are an inspiration for the football community and generations to come.”
“Sport is for everyone,” Adidas added.
International soccer clubs Vasco da Gama, Tottenham Hotspur, Birmingham City and Melbourne Victory likewise voiced their support.
Having LGBTQ+ representation across all aspects of society is key to speeding up the pace of change when it comes to acceptance, and breaking down the discrimination and inequality that LGBTQ+ communities face globally.
Around the world, people who are LGBTQ+ continue to face violence and discrimination and are subject to prejudiced laws. The majority of nations within the Pacific and Southeast Asia have a plethora of anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including legislation that makes same-sex sexual activity illegal and forbids individuals from changing their legal gender.
In Myanmar, intercourse between the same sex can result in imprisonment of up to 20 years. Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Tuvalu forbid same-sex activity, while Kiribati, Fiji and the Marshall Islands do not allow same-sex marriages nor the ability for those who identify as LGBTQ+ to openly serve in their nation’s respective militaries.
New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan are the only countries in the Asia-Pacific that have legalised same-sex marriage.
Discrimination and stigma of this kind often drives higher rates of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and bullying — and can lead to LGBTQ+ people being excluded from housing, health care and public accommodations, obstructing them from social inclusion and economic advancement.
LGBTQ+ people are "likely" overrepresented in the bottom 40% of those in poverty worldwide, according to the World Bank.
“We will not reach our twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity unless we address all forms of discrimination, including bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” World Bank President Jim Kim said on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia back in 2015.