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© Alamy - Blackpool's Jake Daniels in action on his debut

Jake Daniels: “I am confident and happy to be myself”

Blackpool’s teenage striker Jake Daniels yesterday became the first professional footballer in more than 30 years to come out while playing. 

The response from the football world has been overwhelmingly positive with players, pundits and fans uniting in support of Daniels.

His own club Blackpool said they were “incredibly proud” adding: “It is vital that we all promote an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves, and that football leads the way in removing any form of discrimination and prejudice.”

Speaking to Sky Sports, Daniels said: “Since I’ve come out to my family, my club and my team-mates, that period of overthinking everything – and the stress it created – has gone. It was impacting my mental health. Now I am just confident and happy to be myself finally.”

Players home and abroad – such as Justin Fashanu, Robbie Rogers, and Thomas Hitzlsperger – have come out but that tends to be once their careers were established or over. Daniels’s decision, and the response, has been read by many as a positive sign that society’s attitudes are shifting.

FSA Board member Chris Paouros:

“It’s wonderful that Jake can now bring his whole self to his football. He scored four goals in the game after he told his mum and sister and you can’t underestimate the weight that’s lifted when you do come out and unlock your potential, it’s a liberation.”

In recent years the Football Supporters’ Association has been proud to help support the establishment of dozens of LGBT+ fan groups at clubs across England and Wales via the Fans for Diversity campaign, which is run with Kick It Out.

“We are going to see the community come together and support him,” says Anwar Uddin, head of the Fans for Diversity campaign.

“The level of support shown on social media is not a surprise to me, it shows me where we’re at. The vast majority of football fans and the football community are supportive of anything of this nature. It’s a great opportunity to showcase that.

“It’s never going to go without incident. There’s always elements of every fanbase that let clubs down, it’s not utopia but it’s a great opportunity for fans to come together and show their support for an individual.”

If you’d like support on setting up a supporters’ group contact the FSA.

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