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(CNN)Jake Daniels, a 17-year-old forward for Blackpool FC in England’s second tier, publicly came out as gay Monday in a statement released by the club.
The British LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall says Daniels is the first professional player to come out in the UK in the last 30 years.
“I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.” Daniels said in his statement.
“In reaching this point, I’ve had some of the best support and advice from my family, my Club, my agent and Stonewall, who have all been incredibly pro-active in putting my interests and welfare first,” Daniels continued. “I have also confided in my team-mates in the youth team here at Blackpool, and they too have embraced the news and supported my decision to open up and tell people.”
“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 signed a professional contract with Blackpool FC in February and played in the team’s final game of the season after scoring 30 goals for Blackpool’s youth team and leading that team to the quarterfinals of the FA Youth Cup, where he scored in his team’s 3-2 loss to Chelsea’s youth team.
“Blackpool Football Club has worked closely with Stonewall and the relevant footballing organisations to support Jake and is incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on-and-off the pitch,” the club said in a statement.
“We are proud that Jake has felt able to share his truth with the world,” Stonewall said of the news. “To come out publicly as the first openly gay player in men’s professional football in the UK in the last 30 years takes courage. We’re honoured to be supporting him!”
In an interview with Sky Sports News, Daniels discussed his journey to reach today’s decision.
“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,” Daniels told Sky. “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,” Daniels continued.
“Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”..CNN
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