Jakub Jankto, a Czech Republic international footballer, has become the most well-known male player of the sport to come out as gay. Jankto, who plays for Sparta Prague on loan from Getafe, revealed his sexuality in a post on Twitter, saying: “I no longer want to hide myself.”
The 27-year-old midfielder has 45 caps for his country and has previously played in Italy for Sampdoria and Udinese, and follows in the footsteps of Australian Josh Cavallo, who came out publicly in 2021, and Jake Daniels of Blackpool, who is the only current British male player to reveal he is gay.
Daniels' announcement that he is gay was welcomed as an "historic day" for English football, with England captain Harry Kane among those who paid tribute to the then 17-year-old.
In May 2022, the Blackpool striker issued a statement through his club, making him the country's only openly gay active male professional footballer. Daniels' bravery was lauded by players, clubs, and organisations from around the country and beyond.
Here is everything you need to know about him.
Who is Jake Daniels?
18-year old Jake Daniels is an English professional footballer who plays as a forward for EFL Championship club Blackpool.
Daniels, a Blackpool youth product since the age of seven, joined the U18s in 2021 and was crowned Blackpool's youth team player of the season in 2020–21 after scoring 30 goals.
In February 2022, he signed his first professional contract with Blackpool, and the following month, he joined Northern Premier League side Bamber Bridge on loan for the remainder of the season. On 7 May 2022, he made his senior Blackpool debut, coming on as an 81st-minute substitute in a 5–0 Championship loss to Peterborough United.
Daniels stated on the Blackpool club website that he was inspired to announce his sexuality by other athletes, and cited fellow footballer Josh Cavallo, Thetford Town manager Matt Morton, and diver Tom Daley as helping him come out.
Daniels is the first British professional football player to come out as gay whie still playing since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
What did he say?
Daniels told Sky Sports: “It’s been quite a crazy year. I’m 17. I’ve signed a professional contract. I’ve scored 30 goals this season and I’ve just made my first-team debut in the Championship, coming off the bench against Peterborough.
“And now I have decided to come out. Everything has happened at once but it feels right. When this season started, I just wanted to prove myself as a player. I think I have. So this was the one last thing in my head that I knew I needed to do.
“Now it’s out, and people know. Now I can just live my life how I want to and you know what? It’s been incredible.” Daniels spoke highly of Blackpool and his teammates in the Sky Bet Championship, saying the club have been “absolutely amazing”.
“The subject of being gay, or bi or queer in men’s football is still a taboo,” he said. “I think it comes down to how a lot of footballers want to be known for their masculinity. And people see being gay as being weak, something you can be picked on for on the football field. It’s an easy thing for people to target.
“My team-mates have all been so supportive about it and everyone has had my back. They’ve been asking tons of questions, they have all been intrigued and their reaction has been brilliant. It’s the best thing I could have asked for.
“Of course, everyone was kind of shocked in a way and they were asking why I didn’t tell them earlier. That was a great reaction because it showed how much they cared.”
How have fans reacted?
An LGBTQ+ football fan said they “could’t stop smiling” after Daniels became the first professional in the men’s game to come out as gay in 30 years. It was an historic occasion, according to Joe White, co-chair of Pride In Football, a network of UK LGBTQ+ fan organisations.
Describing their feelings to PA, they said: “It’s just a lot of amazement, awe at Jake, and it’s just wonderful. I can’t stop smiling whenever we’re talking about it so I think that says it all.”
When they were younger, football was “not a welcoming place” for LGBTQ+ people White said. “I’d go to games and you’d hear homophobic chanting, homophobic slurs,” they added.
They said that football has made "a lot of progress quickly" since then, and they believe that having an openly gay footballer in the men's game and "just seeing someone like you on the pitch" may have a "powerful" effect on LGBTQ+ fans.
White, who is also the co-chair of the Arsenal and England LGBTQ+ fan clubs, expressed their delight at Daniels' comments being met with "overwhelming positivity."
“It’s been really promising to see how many people are getting behind and showing their support for him on social media,” they said. The Premier League clubs have been tweeting already and sadly, yes, you do get a few trolls and homophobes still, but it’s been lovely to see overwhelming positivity across the board.”
Who has praised Daniels’ move?
Daniels has received messages of support from a number of Premier League clubs, governing bodies, and players - including England captain Harry Kane and Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea - via social media.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane also paid tribute to Daniels on Twitter. He wrote: “Massive credit to you @Jake_Daniels11 and the way your friends, family, club, and captain have supported you. Football should be welcoming for everyone.”
Match of the Day presenter and ex-England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: “Well played, @Jake_Daniels11. It’s been a brilliant season for you on the pitch, and now through your bravery, off the pitch too.
“I’m sure you’ll receive huge love and support from the football community and many others will follow your path. Good luck to you.”
Former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out as gay shortly after retiring, wished Daniels a successful career, and said he was glad to see he had the support of his club to make the announcement possible. The leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties also expressed their support, along with figures from the wider worlds of sport and entertainment.