Soccer player Jake Daniels became the first professional in the British league in more than three decades to publicly reveal his homosexuality. “I’ve known all my life that I’m gay and now I feel ready to come out and be myself,” said the 17-year-old in a statement on the British second division club’s website on Monday Blackpool FC, for whom he plays.

He was inspired by athletes like soccer player Josh Cavallo or water jumper Tom Daley. Cavallo, who is under contract with Adelaide United in the A-League, had made his homosexuality public last year.

Daniels said, “I’ve hated lying all my life and feeling like I had to change to fit in.” With his coming out, he wants to be a role model for other people, because: “There are people out there who are in the same situation as me and may not feel comfortable making their sexuality public. I just want to tell them that you not having to change who you are or how you should be just to fit in.”

Daniels received a lot of encouragement, especially on social media. Former national player Thomas Hitzlsperger, who was the first professional to announce that he was gay after retiring, also welcomed Daniels’ step on Twitter with the words: “Well done, Jake Daniels! Have a wonderful career!” He also praised Blackpool FC for their support.