Gary Lineker insists he is full of admiration for Josh Cavallo after he became the world’s first professional male footballer to retire.
The versatile Adelaide United star has released a lengthy and emotional clip on social media saying he has ‘hidden who he is’ and ‘lives a double life’.
And on Twitter, former England striker and Match of the Day presenter Lineker said he is hopeful Cavallo’s actions will “take away the fear of others.”
Gary Lineker (L) has garnered praise for Josh Cavallo (R) after coming out as world’s first openly gay male professional soccer player
“It’s absurd that coming out in football is brave,” the former Tottenham and Barcelona star tweeted. “Yeah, yes, and I admire Josh for walking a path hopefully many others will follow.
“I’m sure the vast majority of football fans will support him and take away the fear of others.”
Barcelona and ex-Spanish centre-back Pique also praised Cavallo and personally thanked him for his heartfelt video.
“Hey @JoshuaCavallo, I don’t have the pleasure of knowing you personally, but I want to thank you for taking this step.
‘The football world is lagging far behind and you are helping us move forward.’
Piqué’s ex-Barcelona team-mate Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, simply tweeted, “Proud of you @JoshuaCavallo,” followed by a fist and heart emoji.
Cavallo, 21, who has also played for Western United and Australia’s third division Melbourne City NPL, said in his video: “There is something personal I have to share with everyone. I am a football player and I am gay.
“Growing up, I always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed – I was ashamed that I could never do what I love and be gay.
“Coming out to my loved ones, my colleagues, friends, teammates and coaches has been incredible. The support I have received has been tremendous.
“I want to show people that it’s okay to be yourself and play football. If anything, you get more respect from people [by coming out].
“I want to show all the other people who struggle and are afraid that they don’t have to act like something you’re not. You were meant to be yourself – not someone else.’
The versatile Adelaide United star (left) released a long and emotional clip on social media
The PFA, Premier League and EFL were among the sporting bodies to tweet their support, while top club Arsenal posted a message that read: ‘You are an inspiration to millions. Everyone deserves the right to be themselves. The football world is a better place today, thanks to you.’
Arsenal Women legend Kelly Smith and current Chelsea Women striker Sam Kerr were among the gay female stars of the past and present to send their support.
Fans have also taken to social media to praise the one-cap Australian U20 international, who made 15 starts for Adelaide United in 2020-21.
Someone wrote: ‘Josh Cavallo (Australian footballer) has come out as gay and I couldn’t be happier.
The 21-year-old has also played for Western United and Melbourne City NPL
“So many young men will see this and see hope. So many need it. I sincerely (but perhaps naively) hope he stays free from abuse and homophobia.”
Others echoed those thoughts, with one message: “Josh Cavallo, you’re a champion. You are a pioneer.
“It sucks that this is still so hard, but you’re breaking down barriers, clearing the way for others, and no doubt helping some kids get through challenging things with your example.” Bravo.’
Meanwhile, another user added, “Coming out is hard for everyone. But for someone in the public eye as a professional athlete, coming out would be unfathomably difficult.
“Josh Cavallo’s courage is immeasurable. A true pioneer. Live your best life, legend.’
Another praised Cavallo and the club for their actions, stating, “Great news from Josh Cavallo. Very brave of him to come out.
Big congratulations to him and his team for standing with him. Let’s hope more players aren’t afraid to have their say. @AdelaideUnited is a great club to assist your player.”
Melbourne sports reporter Oliver Caffrey, meanwhile, praised the support Cavallo had received from those not following the top professional league in Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s damn hard to do on this website, but Josh Cavallo single-handedly created extremely positive vibes on the timeline,” he tweeted.
“The outpouring of support, from #ALeague people or not, was so good to see.”
Cavallo has already hit at least one person, with one user adding, “I needed a good reason to get out of my current Twitter hiatus and Josh Cavallo is a damn good reason. Well done boy!!’
However, others argued that while Cavallo’s announcement was positive, it also shows how far there is still to go.
“The fact that a professional athlete coming out is *still* newsworthy shows how far we still have to go, despite how far we’ve already come,” wrote one person.
Another also tweeted a warning to other A-League clubs, saying: “I want every A-League Men club to respond positively to Josh Cavallo.
‘I have to see it. Not saying something is saying something.’
Cavallo rose through the ranks at Melbourne Victory and current A-league champion Melbourne City, spending time with both of their youth teams.
He went on to score six goals in 54 appearances for the latter’s youth system before securing an A-League move to Western United in 2019 after his contract expired in June of that year.
He played 10 games for the Green and Black before signing a short contract with 2015-16 champions Adelaide United in February, and after impressive displays in midfield and left-back, he was awarded a two-year contract in May.
Cavallo was then awarded the club’s rising star award at the end of last season after a successful season in which he provided a total of two assists in 18 appearances.
Adelaide United finished fifth as a club in the A-League last season, with 39 points from 26 games that qualified them for the Finals series, which consists of the six best teams at the end of the regular season.
They defeated Brisbane Roar in the elimination final, a match in which Cavallo came off the bench in the final 13 minutes but broke free in the semi-final against Sydney FC.
The new A-League season kicks off next month on November 19.