MELBOURNE, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo became the first active A-League player to come out as gay on Wednesday, saying he was done with feeling ashamed about his sexuality and the exhaustion of trying to live a "double-life".
"I'm a footballer and I'm gay," the 21-year-old said on a video posted on Adelaide's social media, drawing support from fellow professionals across the world.
"All I want to do is play football and be treated equally."
Few elite male soccer players have come out as gay during their careers. Andy Brennan became the first former A-League player to come out in 2019 when the ex-Newcastle Jet was still playing in a lower tier.
"I'm tired of trying to perform at the best of your ability and to live this double-life, it's exhausting," said Cavallo.
"I thought that people would think of me differently when they found out. They would start treating me differently.
"They would start saying bad things about me or making fun out of me. That's not the case. If anything you would earn more respect from people."
Australia's professional players union said it was a "wonderful moment" for him, the sport and "the LGBTI+ community" and Cavallo's fellow professionals also offered support.
Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann said https://twitter.com/AntoGriezmann/status/1453309460739502083 he was "proud" of Cavallo while Barcelona defender Gerard Pique and Spanish basketball great Pau Gasol also praised the Adelaide midfielder.
"I don't have the pleasure to know you personally but I wanted to thank you for this step that you take. The world of football is far behind and you are helping us move forward," Pique wrote https://twitter.com/3gerardpique/status/1453302447343083523 on Twitter.
"In 2021, this shouldn't be news. Thank you for this step forward for the sport," Gasol tweeted https://twitter.com/paugasol/status/1453312810923008008.
Former England striker Gary Lineker said he admired Cavallo.
"It's absurd that coming out is a brave thing to do in football. It is though, and I'm full of admiration for Josh for treading a path hopefully many others will follow," Lineker wrote https://twitter.com/GaryLineker/status/1453319726231429129 on Twitter.
"I'm sure the overwhelming majority of football lovers will support him and erase the fear others may have."
Cavallo said Thomas Beattie, a former youth player for English club Hull City who came out in 2020, had been a "role model" in helping him on his journey and hoped their example might help change things for other young gay men in sport.
"Statistics show only 33% of young gay men play football in comparison to 68% of young straight men," he said.
"That's a lot of wasted young players missing out -- players that could be very talented, but who don't fit the norm.
"Perhaps we can play a part in saying that football accepts everyone -- that you are all welcome?" (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford )