Jahmal Howlett-Mundle opens up to his team-mates about his sexuality (Photo: Twitter / @SheppeyUFC)
Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, who plays for Sheppey United in the ninth tier of English football, made the announcement to his team-mates earlier this week and received a round of applause for his bravery.
Around two per cent of the UK population identity as lesbian, gay or bisexual but there is evidence to suggest the true figure is three or four times as much.
However, there are no openly gay or bisexual footballers in any of the major leagues in Scotland, England and the wider world.
Howlett-Mundle, 24, admitted the stigma attached within the sport made him hesitate to come out, but in the end he took inspiration from ex-professionals and leading men in other sports who had the confidence to be open about their sexuality.
He said in a statement: “I’m not the type of person to reveal large parts of my personal life and usually keep myself to myself.
“I certainly felt it was the right time to be honest with myself and my loved ones and by being open about my sexuality, maybe it will give others the confidence to follow suit.
“Football still has room for improvement in terms of players coming out and being themselves, but with the likes of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Thomas Beattie having done so, it’s slowly starting to evolve.
“We have seen other sports people like Gareth Thomas and Tom Daley come out years ago and they are great role models for people like me.”
The 24-year-old, who said he was “overwhelmed” by the positive response he’s had from friends, family, team-mates and supporters, admits since making the decision he’s discovered a new lease of life.
He added: “I wanted to be myself and talk about my anxieties regarding the stigma of sexuality in football, but felt I always had to hold back in conversations.
“I finally feel safe, secure and a lot more at peace with myself, and I am now… the happiest I’ve ever been.”
His assistant manager at Sheppey United, Marcel Nimani, said: “Jahmal is a great footballer and leader for us on the pitch and an inspirational influencer off the field.
“In the 21st century, sexual orientation of a person is a normal existence in our society, but unfortunately in football it’s not quite the case.
“Bravery acts like Jahmal’s play a massive part in normalising members of the LGBTQIA+ community within football. I believe these acts go a long way in supporting many struggling sports people.
“I thank Jahmal for the trust that he has put into our club and we as a club are fully supportive of Jahmal in what is an emotional time for him.”
A version of this article was originally published on our sister title, the Edinburgh Evening News
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