This season could hardly have gone much better for footballer Jake Daniels from the British second division club FC Blackpool: first he scored 30 goals for the U18s, then he signed his first professional contract in February and now he even made his debut there a few days ago.
He could hardly be happier, the 17-year-old wrote on Instagram, and now put a shovel of happiness on top of it: As the first player in the British professional league in over three decades, he spoke publicly about his homosexuality. “I’ve known I was gay all my life and now I feel ready to go public with my coming out.”
Daniels received a lot of encouragement, especially on social media. Former national player Thomas Hitzlsperger also wrote: “Well done Jake Daniel” and praised the club for its support. It didn’t take long, however, for comments such as “So what?” or “That’s nobody’s business and is unimportant” or “Something like this doesn’t need to be reported”.
Of course, it is up to everyone to be open about their sexual orientation, nobody is obliged to do so. And of course it would be desirable if a coming out didn’t seem necessary in the first place because it’s so self-evident. But that’s not the case, especially not in football. That’s why it’s a bold move by Daniels, especially on Idahobit, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia.
This makes it clear why the coming out of a well-known person is by no means “unimportant”, but rather has a political dimension: To this day, homosexuality is punishable by death in eleven countries, while at the same time a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is anchored in the constitution in just eleven countries – Germany is not one of them.
In football in particular, athletes are under enormous pressure to do justice to heteronormative role models and stereotypical ideas of masculinity.
In his statement, Daniels said that athletes such as Australian footballer Josh Cavallo or British diver Tom Daley had inspired him. Cavallo, who is under contract with Adelaide United in the A-League, was the first active professional footballer to publicly reveal that he was gay last year.
This shows: It takes athletes who encourage others, who are role models for them and who show them – to put it in Daniel’s words – “that you don’t have to change who you are”. We can therefore be curious to see which athletes Daniels will be a role model in the future.