Josh Cavallo’s got game, and this year proved it

· Updated on June 27, 2024

Josh Cavallo, a professional soccer player with the Australian Adelaide United Football Club, made history in 2021 by coming out as gay. At the time, the announcement established him as the first gay top-flight soccer player out and actively playing, not just in Australia but around the world.

The now 24-year-old athlete took to social media in October 2021 stating that he was “proud to publicly announce that [he is] gay.” In an Instagram post that’s still pinned to the top of his feed, Cavallo expressed having to overcome his internalized shame, as he felt like had to mask his feelings in order to make it in the world of professional football.

“In football, you only have a small window to achieve greatness, and coming out publicly may have a negative impact on a career,” Cavallo shared. “As a gay footballer, I know there are other players living in silence. I want to help change this, to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football, and deserves the right to be their authentic self.”

Though initially sharing the news brought Cavallo to tears, his public announcement brought Cavallo peace of mind. After the announcement, Cavallo told The Senior he had “never smiled so much in my life.” His soccer team, Adelaide United, expressed support for Cavallo after his coming out, noting that it took “profound courage.” 

In his relatively short career, Cavallo’s already racked up a number of accolades. For the 2020-2021 season, Cavallo, who plays left back and central midfielder, won Adelaide United’s Rising Star Award. In 2022, he received an honorary doctorate from Flinder University, recognizing “his exceptional contributions as a role model in elite men’s sport and a champion for equality in broader society.” And in 2023, he was nominated for Young Australian of the Year, an award that recognizes positive social impact in Australia.

This March, Cavallo pinned another prideful post to the top of his profile. On the field of the Adelaide United Football Club, Cavallo took to one knee to ask his partner Leighton Morrell to be his fiancé. (Morrell, of course, said yes). In his post, Cavallo thanked his team for their endless support, including letting him propose on the field.

“You have provided a safe space in football, one that I never in my dreams thought could ever be possible, and encouraged me to live [every day] of my life authentically,” Cavallo wrote. “It felt right to share this special moment on the pitch, where it all started.”

Since coming out, Cavallo has opened up more about his sexuality. In 2022, he was featured in the second episode of the documentary series Rio Ferdinand’s Tipping Point, hosted by the titular former soccer player, where talked about his experience being gay in the world of professional soccer.

“I think something that I struggled with the most was not looking up and seeing someone that was a pro and that was gay, and was comfortable and successful with it,” he shared on the show. “And that’s something that I can change through my coming out and show that it is possible to be who you are.”

To come out in a male-dominated industry takes tremendous courage, which Cavallo has clearly expressed, opening the door for other queer athletes to live proudly in their truth.

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