Jake Daniels Becomes First Openly Gay Male Professional Footballer In Britain
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Jake Daniels has come out, becoming the first openly gay male professional footballer in Britain.
The Blackpool forward said he felt ready to 'be myself' after 'such a long time of lying' about who he is.
The 17-year-old told Sky Sports News: "For a long time I've thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer. I asked myself if I should wait until I've retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out.
"However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to.
"Since I've come out to my family, my club and my teammates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental health.
"Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally."
The striker - who has scored 30 goals for the under-19s this season - signed a professional contract with the club in February.
He made his first team debut earlier this month, on the last game of the season.
Since the age of five or six, he said he knew he was gay, but feared his sexuality wasn't compatible with his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
He said: "So all the way through my life I was like, 'It's fine, you'll get a girlfriend when you're older and you'll change and it'll be fine'.
"And as you do get older you realise 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."
On telling his teammates, he said the players were 'kind of shocked in a way', but he added that 'everyone has been so supportive'.
He said: "The captain was one of the main people I told and he was just asking loads of questions about it and was like 'I'm so proud of you'.
"Everyone has been so supportive and so proud of me and it just shows what a bond we have as a team and everyone is like a family to each other."
The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) commended Daniels.
In a statement, it said: "We are extremely proud of Jake and have been working with him and his club. He has the complete support of everyone at the PFA.
"The PFA represents an incredibly diverse group of players across both the men's and women's games.
"The whole football community must continue to work to make our game an environment where all those involved feel safe and supported, and where they feel comfortable when choosing how to tell their own stories.
"Our message to anyone in the game who's thinking about a similar, extremely personal decision is simple - whatever you decide, and however you choose to move forward, we are here for you. As your footballing family we will give you all the support you need, whenever you need it."