Josh Cavallo, the first openly gay top division male soccer player, proposed to his partner on his team’s field

(CNN) — Josh Cavallo, the first top-flight male footballer to openly announce that he is gay, broke new ground by proposing to his partner on his club’s pitch.

The Australian player made history in 2021 when he posted an emotional video online in which he publicly announced he was gay and promised to change the culture of the game “to show that everyone is welcome in football.”

His announcement was seen as a significant moment in a sport that has a long and problematic history of homophobia, particularly in men’s football.

Since then, the 24-year-old Cavallo has become one of the most recognizable faces in sports and a leading advocate for greater equality for the LGBTQ community.

Josh Cavallo

Josh Cavallo is currently the only openly gay senior male footballer.

This Thursday, he announced that he had proposed to his fiancée at Coopers Stadium, the home ground of his Australian A-League team, Adelaide United.

Cavallo announced in a post on Instagram along with a photo of her on her knees holding a ring: “Starting this year with my fiancé.”

Other photos showed the player smiling while his partner covered his eyes and held hands.

Cavallo thanked his team “for helping prepare this surprise”.

“They have provided a safe space in football that I never dreamed was possible,” he wrote on X. He also said he wanted to “share this special moment on the field, where it all started.”

Since announcing his sexual orientation, Cavallo has played in A-League Pride matches, having his name and number printed in rainbow colors on his jersey to raise awareness, and has consistently posted encouraging messages on social media.

He was named “Man of the Year” for 2022 at an awards ceremony organized by Attitude Magazine, Europe’s largest LGBTQ magazine.

Cavallo criticized FIFA’s decision to ban players from wearing “OneLove” armbands at the World Cup in Qatar two years ago during an interview with CNN, saying the move made him feel “ostracized”.

He was not selected for the final Socceroos squad, but said at the time that he would like to see the Australian captain wear an armband to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

Cavallo told CNN in 2022, “If I was there and was captain, yes, I would be wearing the armband. I’m not ashamed of who I am.”

He added, “And that’s why I announced it and I am the person I am today.”

fight homophobia

Professional football has made significant progress in the fight against homophobia and racism in recent years and has launched several campaigns, but prejudice persists among some fans, clubs and players.

According to a report for the 2022–23 season published by English football’s anti-discrimination group, Kick It Out, it received 1,007 reports of discriminatory behaviour, an increase of 65.1% on the previous season.

While racism was the most prevalent form of discrimination, Kick It Out said that Signify’s research examining online threats and misinformation had “identified spikes of homophobic and misogynistic abuse directed at several prominent female WSL players.” (Women’s Super League)”, even as sport officials continue to promote a series of campaigns to tackle homophobia and promote LGBTQ+ inclusion.

To date, there are very few professional male footballers who have openly declared that they are gay.

Earlier this week, the Austrian national team announced it had selected three Rapid Vienna players for duty after video emerged of them chanting homophobic slogans with the crowd attending a post-match celebration.

However, there have been high-profile comments and interventions from prominent footballers calling for greater tolerance and diversity.

Last year, Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale said he could no longer remain silent in the face of homophobic abuse in football out of love and respect for his brother, who is gay.

“I want my brother – or anyone of any sexual orientation, race or religion – to come to sports without fear of abuse.”

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