First openly gay top-flight male soccer star proposes to partner on home pitch

First openly gay top-flight male soccer star proposes to partner on home pitch - Sports - News

Trailblazing Soccer Star Josh Cavallo Proposes to Partner on the Pitch, Advocating for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Football

The groundbreaking moment in soccer history was made by Josh Cavallo, an Australian professional soccer player, when he came out as the first top-flight male footballer to openly identify as gay in 2021. His courageous announcement sparked a wave of change and acceptance within the sport, which has long been grappling with deeply-rooted homophobia, particularly in men’s football.

Since making history, Cavallo, aged 24, has become a prominent figure and vocal advocate for greater equality for the LGBTQ+ community in football. He announced his engagement to his partner on Thursday at Coopers Stadium, the home pitch of Australian A-League team Adelaide United.

In a heartfelt post on social media platform X, Cavallo shared an image of himself down on one knee, holding out a ring, with the caption, “Starting this year with my fiancée.” Alongside the post were photographs of the couple’s joyful reaction and a close-up of their hands intertwined. Cavallo acknowledged his team for helping to set up this surprise and expressed gratitude for creating a safe space in football, allowing him to live authentically.

Since coming out, Cavallo has played in A-League Pride matches with his jersey adorned with rainbow colors to raise awareness and has consistently posted encouraging messages on social media. He was awarded the title of “Man of the Year” in 2022 at an awards ceremony hosted by Attitude Magazine, Europe’s largest LGBTQ magazine publication.

During an interview with News Finder, Cavallo expressed his disappointment over FIFA’s decision to ban players from wearing “OneLove” armbands at the 2022 World Cup held in Qatar, feeling that this exclusionary move further highlighted the need for change within the sport. Despite not making the Socceroo’s final squad, Cavallo expressed his support for the Australian captain wearing the armband in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

Professional soccer has made significant progress in addressing homophobia and racism, but prejudice still remains entrenched among some fans, clubs, and players. A report released by the English football anti-discrimination group Kick It Out during the 2022-23 season stated that they had received 1,007 reports of discriminatory behaviour, marking a 65.1% increase from the previous season. The report also noted a significant rise in homophobic and misogynistic abuse targeting WSL (Women’s Super League) players despite ongoing campaigns promoting diversity and inclusion.

To this day, there are still very few professional male footballers who have openly come out as gay. Recent developments include Austria’s national squad dropping three Rapid Vienna soccer players for duty due to post-match celebrations involving homophobic chants from the crowd.

Despite these challenges, prominent footballers such as Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale have spoken out in support of greater tolerance and diversity within the sport. In 2021, Ramsdale shared his reasons for no longer remaining silent on homophobic abuse in football, stating, “I want my brother – or anyone of any sexuality, race or religion – to come to games without having to fear abuse.”

The soccer community continues to face the challenge of creating an inclusive environment where all players, regardless of their sexual orientation, can play and be themselves without fear of prejudice. Cavallo’s trailblazing actions have paved the way for a more inclusive future in soccer, and his commitment to advocacy serves as an inspiration for others.