Image source, Getty Images

Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo has come out as gay, becoming the only current male professional footballer in the world to do so.

The 21-year-old wrote on social media that he was "ready to speak about something personal that I'm finally comfortable to talk about in my life".

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay," the midfielder said in an accompanying video.

"All I want to do is play football and be treated equally."

'Fighting with my sexuality'

Josh said he was tired of trying to perform at his best "and to live this double life, it's exhausting".

"It's been a journey to get to this point in my life, but I couldn't be happier with my decision to come out."

"I have been fighting with my sexuality for six years now, and I'm glad I can put that to rest."

Josh's Truth

— Adelaide United (@AdelaideUnited) October 27, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

He thought "people would think of me differently when they found out".

"They would start saying bad things about me or making fun out of me. That's not the case. If anything you would earn more respect from people."

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Few elite male football players have come out as gay during their careers.

Andy Brennan became the first former Australian League player to come out in 2019 when the ex-Newcastle Jet was still playing in a lower tier.

Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger revealed he was gay after retiring from the sport.

In 1990, Justin Fashanu came out as gay. He took his own life in 1998 after allegations of sexual assault were made against him by a 17-year-old in the US.

Thomas Beattie, a former youth player for English club Hull City came out in 2020, and said he was proud of Josh, adding "visibility and representation matters".

— Josh Cavallo (@JoshuaCavallo) October 27, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Josh's statement has sparked an outpouring of support for him, which he's called "immense".

Australia's professional players union said it was a "wonderful moment" for him, the sport and "the LGBTI+ community".

"Being a closeted footballer, I've had to learn to mask my feelings in order to fit the mould of a professional footballer."

"That's a lot of wasted young players missing out – players that could be very talented, but who don't fit the norm."

"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 added.

Newsbeat has contacted Josh's management but they've not yet responded.

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