News   |    May 19th, 2022

A PRO WITH PRIDE

We are often guilty of failing to look beyond the façade of a professional footballer. Typically we find ourselves entertained by their ability on the pitch: their majestic ball skills, frantic tackling and courageous determination as the footballing warriors wage battle on the pitch. It is as if we pay to watch 22 showmen put on a performance each Saturday, taking no prisoners as spectators speak their mind when critiquing every last movement of the athletes before them. It is in amongst this chaos where we must take a second to realize that there are people behind this footballing mask.

Football has always had a unique ability to influence society. In a world where we are becoming ever more inclusive and diverse, this responsibility has rarely been greater. Often, it takes a brave individual to champion change and provide the platform for others to follow. This is the case for Jake Daniels, the 17-year-old Championship footballer who plays for Blackpool.

Having publicly come out as gay this week, Daniels becomes the UK’s first – and currently only -, openly gay active male professional footballer. This comes after more than 30 years since the last active male gay professional in Justin Fashanu, who confronted a whole host of prejudice in homophobia and racism. Tragically, the former Norwich City icon later took his own life as he fought unfair treatment.

This is an important milestone for not just English football, but football across the world. In particular the male game, where a heterosexual, testosterone-fueled masculine and unaccepting predisposition has been allowed to fester. However, progress in changing the culture is being made with the numerous campaigns including the likes of LGBTQ+ and Kick it Out alongside charities such as Stonewall. Jake recalls his experience in telling his team mates as nerve wracking, yet a relief. A relief in which lifted a weight from his shoulders, and more importantly highlighted that his colleagues were excited whilst positively curious, proving that within the game we are becoming more accepting and supportive.

This is the icing on the cake for the young striker, having scored 30 goals this season and making his first team debut with Blackpool, he can now feel comfortable in himself as a footballer, but more significantly as a person. It is great to see positive and fulfilling cases like this, and in the hope of building momentum and encouraging others to speak out, it continues to push football into being one of the most all-encompassing sports in the world. So next time you take your seat at a football match, remember there is more to these professionals than just their footballing capabilities, there is a person just like you and me.

Image – Lee Parker/CameraSport/Getty Images

Alfie Bobbins - Integral Sports Management.

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