Football’s first openly gay player proposes to partner on home pitch

Josh Cavallo, who in 2021 became the first openly gay male professional footballer, is engaged after an on-pitch proposal to his partner, Leighton Morrell, at Adelaide United’s home ground.

The 24-year-old made international headlines when he came out publicly in an emotional video, announcing: “There’s something personal that I need to share with everyone: I’m a footballer, and I am gay.”

He said at the time he had been fighting his sexuality for more than six years and was tired of living a “double life”.

On Thursday, he thanked the Australian A-league club for helping him set up the surprise proposal in a post on Instagram.

“Your endless support has meant so much to me,” he wrote.

“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.

“It felt right to share this special moment on the pitch, where it all started.”

The post included a series of photos of the engagement at an empty Coopers Stadium, with Cavallo going down on one knee, and Morrell putting his hands on his face.

Another photo shows Cavallo back up on his feet and laughing.

A third image, in black and white, is one of the couple holding hands with the engagement ring.

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Just a handful of top players have revealed they are gay while still playing, including Jake Daniels at Blackpool, some seven months after Cavallo.

In an interview with Sky Sports News, he said he felt ready to “be myself” after “such a long time of lying” about who he is.

Czech international Jakub Jankto – who plays for Italy’s Serie A side Cagliari – is the highest-profile current male gay footballer, making the announcement last year.