Josh Cavallo said he would be “scared” to play at the World Cup in Qatar because of the harsh anti-gay laws and penalties in the region.
In an open letter and video posted on 27 October, the Adelaide United player shared that he is gay – making him the only openly gay male top-flight professional footballer.
“There’s something personal that I need to share with everyone. I am a footballer and I am gay,” he explained in the clip shared to the team’s social media.
The 21-year-old added that he has been trying to live a “double life” but that enough is enough.
In a letter to fans, Cavallo shared that he “couldn’t be happier” to come out.
“It’s been a journey to get to this point in my life, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come out,” he wrote.
“I have been fighting my sexuality for six years now and I’m glad I can put that to rest.
“Growing up I always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed – ashamed I would never be able to do what I loved and be gay.”
In an interview on The Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast, the player opened up about his reservations about playing in countries where there are strict penalties for being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that,” he said of playing in the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
“And that saddens me. At the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country, and to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate – is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?”
Qatari laws make homosexual acts illegal, with punishments ranging from at least a year to a decade behind bars.
Cavallo went on to state that other professional footballers have reached out to him for support since he came out, adding that they are anxious about doing so.
He added: “There are people who have reached out to me in confidentiality and said: ‘I’m struggling with the same thing Josh,’ and they’re professional footballers too. And look, it’s something you can’t rush. [I say] you want to be yourself, and at the end of the day I wasn’t happy and now look at me, I’m honestly on top of the world.
“There are people who have reached out to me in confidentiality and said: ‘I’m struggling with the same thing Josh,’ and they’re professional footballers too. And look, it’s something you can’t rush. [I say] you want to be yourself, and at the end of the day I wasn’t happy and now look at me, I’m honestly on top of the world.
In an interview with the Herald Sun on 5 November, Cavallo shared that Thomas Beattie, an English footballer who came out after retiring, helped him when he was deciding whether or not to come out.
Cavallo said: “He has worked closely with me, and he said to me: ‘Josh, you can have both, you can change the world, you can do this’ and he opened my eyes to doing this.”
The idea that there could be “someone on the opposite side of the world dealing with the exact same pain as what me and Tommy went through” was motivation to share his story.
“It could lead to suicide or take them to dark places,” the footballer explained. “But I want to share the positive side of that and look at the reaction I’ve gotten and how happy everyone is from that.”