As businesses and organizations around the world continue to diversify their workforce and create an inclusive environment in regards to sexual identity and orientation, there is one market that has yet to make that positive change: football.
There has been a long history of homophobia in football, particularly for men. For a male professional football player, being gay continues to be a taboo said Journalist Matt Williams. This ongoing taboo and lack of conversation has lead to players feeling like they can not be their authentic self for fear of repercussions for their sexual orientation.
Yet, most recently Josh Cavallo, an Austrialian football player, rocked headlines when he decided to come out as gay late October 2021. In an emotion filled video, Cavallo says "I am a footballer and I am gay." Cavallo explains that growing up he felt ashamed of who he was and was afraid to embrace his true self for fear for how people would react and treat him after hearing the news.
"I want to inspire and show people that it's OK to be yourself and play football. It's OK to be gay and to play football," he said. "Be yourself. You were meant to be yourself, not someone else."
Cavallo received messages from the fans, other professional players and even from clubs such as F.C. Bayern, supporting his decision. His decision to come out is even more significant as an active player in the A-league team.
While Cavallo becomes the first gay football player an a top-flight team to comes out as gay, he is not the first footballer to ever come out. American footballer Robbie Rogers announced that he was retiring from professional football at the age of 25 after being released from Leeds United and subsequently announced that he was gay. Rogers came out in February 2013by releasing a blog post from his personal blog and stated, "I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay. Those are things that people might say wouldn't go well together. But my family raised me to be an individual and to stand up for what I believe in."
Rogers decision to go into retirement was a way to be out of the spotlight and avoid the press and pressure he would receive. Despite having a brief retirement, Rogers returned to the MLS playing for club LA Galaxy and going on to win the MLS Cup.
While Cavallo's decision opens doors for other gay football players, it is up to the football system and management to truly make a difference by creating an atmosphere where players feel comfortable being themselves and continuing to play. Furthermore, the decision to have the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a country known for its prohibition on same-sex relations, continues to be under scrutiny.
Cavallo himself cited the fear that came with the possibility of going to Qatar if Australia qualified and he was called to represent the country.
“And to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate – is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?”, said Cavallo.