Jake Daniels has become the first active British male footballer to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu.
Jake,17 plays for Blackpool FC and he says he hopes that his decision to go public about his sexuality will encourage others to do same.
“Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me,” Daniels told Sky Sports News.
“I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.
“I can’t really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay. So it’s been a long time that I have been living with the lie.
“At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay doesn’t mix. You just think, one day, when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine.
“But as you get older you realise you can’t just change. It doesn’t work like that.”
Daniels last season scored 30 goals for the under-19 team of Blackpool FC and scored against Chelsea and Newcastle in the FA Youth Cup.
He made his senior debut as a substitute in a 5-0 defeat at Peterborough on the final day of the Championship season.
“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 added.
“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 team-mates, that period of overthinking everything and the stress it created has gone. It was impacting my mental heath. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally,” he said.
“I first told my mum and my sister, who I live with. ‘Yeah, we already knew,’ was how they reacted.
“Then we told my whole family and at this point I was quite scared because I didn’t know how the older generation might react.
“I needn’t have worried. I’ve had so many messages saying, ‘we are proud and we are supportive.’ It’s been amazing. I couldn’t have wished for it to go better.
“The day after I told my mum and sister, we played Accrington [in an under-18s fixture] and I scored four goals, so it just shows how much of a weight off the shoulders and what a massive relief it was.”
In a statement the club said: “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.
“It is vital that we all promote an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves, and that football leads the way in removing any form of discrimination and prejudice.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association also celebrated Daniels’ bravery.
They 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.”