Jake Daniels coming out as gay has been described as a “pivotal moment in football” by former England defender Anita Asante.
Blackpool forward Daniels made the announcement about his sexuality via a statement published on the club’s official website on Monday.
The 17-year-old is the first active male professional footballer in Britain to come out publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
The widespread praise for Daniels has included a message of support from England captain Harry Kane.
Recently-retired Asante, a prominent voice on LGBT+ inclusivity and other issues during her playing career, told the PA news agency: “I think this is a pivotal moment in football, because we have not seen an out male footballer in three decades.
“It is quite a monumental moment, and it’s testament to Jake and his courage and bravery. He’s a young man on his own football journey and I think he will inspire so many more people from all walks of life to hopefully feel empowered by this moment in their own stories.
“It’s great to see the kind of allyship across the game, from the England captain and lots of other professionals, lending their support and their voices.
“Hopefully it will keep this conversation going and open up the space for more athletes at the top level of the men’s game to feel they can come out as well.
“(It has) hopefully given everyone within the game the opportunity to look at their own personal environments within their clubs and how they utilise language, their own behaviours and body language, and how they might create this safer space for people to feel that, when they are ready, they can come forward and come out.
“It’s not really about making it ceremonial and seeking how many more people can come out, but it’s allowing everyone within that space to just be themselves.
“Ultimately it’s about creating that evolution of the game again, once more, where anyone who’s playing the game from the bottom level to the very top of the Premier League just walks in and says ‘I am who I am’ and everyone accepts it.”
There are a number of publicly out members of the LGBT+ community in women’s football, and Asante, who is in a relationship with presenter and former hockey player Beth Fisher, said: “I think in the women’s game we’ve really worked hard over decades to cultivate a culture of openness, inclusivity and open space where everyone can just be their authentic selves.”
Asked for her take on how football in general is faring in this area, the former Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa player said: “I think we’re seeing the incremental changes over the years, with more LGBT+ supporters groups for example, Rainbow Laces, having that visibility in the stands and on the pitch is allowing people to really see football as a space they belong in.
“That’s really important. It obviously has taken a lot of time – and will continue to take more time. But it opens up the conversations at least.
“It’s great to see the landscape shifting and I think it will continue to shift, but it will only happen with players like Jake being brave enough as well to share their stories.”
Asante, who retired after the end of Villa’s Women’s Super League campaign, is set to be back in action next month when she takes part in the 2022 Soccer Aid for UNICEF match at the London Stadium.
:: Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2022 takes place on Sunday, June 12 at the London Stadium. A family of four can attend the game for just £60 – buy your tickets at socceraid.org.uk/tickets
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