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A BLACKPOOL footballer has today opened up about his "massive relief" after revealing he is gay.

Striker Jake Daniels, 17, is the first professional footballer to come out since the late Nottingham Forest star Justin Fashanu.

Jake Daniels of Blackpool has come out as gayCredit: Rex
He said the club has been very supportiveCredit: Sky Sports
He is the first footballer to come out since the football star Justin FashanuCredit: Getty

He revealed he has received the full support of his teammates and officials at his Championship club.

He told Sky Sports: "Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me.

"I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time.

"I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all."

The young forward said he no longer wanted to live a lie - after knowing he was gay from a young age.

Jake said: "I can't really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay. So it's been a long time that I have been living with the lie.

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"At that age you don't really think that football and being gay doesn't mix. You just think, one day, when I'm older I'll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine.

"But as you get older you realise you can't just change. It doesn't work like that."

Just one current male player in the world of football has come out as gay — 22-year-old Josh Cavallo, of Australia’s Adelaide United.

The only prominent male English footballer to have done so was Mr Fashanu, who revealed he was gay in 1990. He took his own life eight years later.

Other stars — including ex-Aston Villa ace Thomas Hitzlsperger, 40, and former Hull City youth player Thomas Beattie, 35 — came out when their careers ended.

Amal Fashanu, the founder of the Justin Fashanu Foundation, said the announcement will come as a "huge comfort" to other gay players who have not gone public.

He said: "The Justin Fashanu Foundation would like to commend Jake for the immense bravery he has shown today by taking this step in making his sexuality public.

"First and foremost this is an important moment for Jake, and it is wonderful to see that his friends and his family have been so supportive. 

“If my Uncle Justin were alive I know he would have been one of the first people to have contacted Jake to offer his support and best wishes.

"Justin’s wish was to create a society where people could simply be kinder to one another and where bigotry doesn’t exist. 

“Jake’s announcement will come as a huge comfort to the many footballers at all levels of the game - from grass roots to the professional leagues - still secretly living as gay and who still feel unable to come out.

"I truly hope this announcement marks a turning point and that other footballers, who wish to do so, feel they can talk more openly about the life they lead off the field."

In October The Sun told how a gay Premier League footballer has had therapy amid fears of coming out.

It is a rarity in world sports for men to announce they are LBTQ+.

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas came out in 2009, two years before he retired.

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The first active NFL player to come out as gay was Carl Nassib in 2021 while he was at the Las Vegas Raiders. The defensive end was released by the team in March.

The first openly gay player in the NBA was Jason Collins while playing for the Brooklyn Nets in 2021.

The young striker has just begun his football careerCredit: Twitter
Jake shakes Hands with Ronnie Edwards of Peterborough UnitedCredit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images