Melbourne (AFP) – Gay Australian footballer Josh Cavallo vowed Sunday that “hate will never win” after being subjected to homophobic abuse from fans during a weekend game.
The 22-year-old, who plays for Adelaide United in Australia’s A-League, came out in October as the only known gay men’s footballer playing in a top-flight league.
His decision to go public won plaudits throughout the footballing world and beyond, including from major clubs such as Liverpool, Barcelona, AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur.
But little more than two months later, Cavallo said he was targeted during Adelaide’s 1-1 away draw against Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
“I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” he said on Instagram.
“There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022.”
“Hate will never win,” he added. “I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”
Cavallo, who has represented Australia at the under-20 level, also criticised Instagram and Twitter for not doing enough to stop the “hateful and hurtful messages” he said he was receiving.
“It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages,” he said.
Despite football’s immense popularity worldwide, only a few footballers have ever come out as gay, mostly after they retired.
The first professional player to come out while still playing was Britain’s Justin Fashanu in 1990, but he never found acceptance in the game and hanged himself in 1998.
The A-League said in a statement it was “shocked and saddened to hear reports of homophobic bullying” against Cavallo.
“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch,” it said.
“There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour.”
“We are working with both clubs to investigate the incident and will issue sanctions to any people found to be involved,” the league added.
Melbourne Victory issued its own statement saying football was “a platform to unite fans no matter what background” and any fans who breached these standards would be banned.
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