Jake Daniels Becomes First U.K. Pro Soccer Player To Come Out In 30 Years

Blackpool forward Jake Daniels, 17, is the UK’s first male professional footballer to come out publicly as gay in more than 30 years after Justin Fashanu did in 1990.

“Off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am,” the teen said in a 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.”

He added that he was inspired by other gay athletes like Australian pro soccer player Josh Cavallo and Olympic diver Tom Daley.

“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,” Daniels said. “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.”

In an interview with Sky Sports News, Daniels said that he thought he had to hide his sexual orientation while pursuing professional soccer. He added that he’d planned to only come out once he retired from the sport.

“But I just knew that was just such a long time of just lying and not being able to have what I want,” Daniels told the outlet.

Daniels said he’d known he was gay when he was younger, about five or six. He explained that he didn’t think soccer and being gay mixed at first.

“And as you do get older you realize you just can’t… and it’s just something you won’t be able to do. I’ve had girlfriends in the past to try and make all my mates think I’m straight, and it was just a massive cover-up. So it has been a struggle,” he said. Daniels told Sky Sports News that he first came out to his mother and sister.