Former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan has become Australia’s first professional male footballer to come out as gay while still playing the game.
The 26-year-old, who made five appearances for the Jets in 2016 and now plays for Victorian NPL side Green Gully, made the announcement in a social media post on Tuesday night.
He said he had spent many years of uncertainty about his sexuality and the reaction such an announcement would get, but came to the conclusion that being open was the best way for him to feel comfortable.
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It’s taken me years to get comfortable saying this – I’m gay. I was scared it would affect my friendships, my teammates, and my family. But the support of the people around me has been so great and helped me get to the final step; being completely open. Being open is the best way for me to feel most comfortable and be myself. So… carry on! 🌈 #owlyagoing
“I’m gay,” he wrote in an essay published by Professional Footballers Australia, the players’ union. “It’s incredible saying that now; it feels amazing. And weirdly, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. Really in 2019, it shouldn’t be.
“But I couldn’t be happier that despite taking so long, ruminating over this decision for so many years and being entirely unsure about myself, I can finally come out and say it.”
He joins Ian Roberts as the only top-level Australian sportsman in the major football codes to ever have come out as gay while still playing. Roberts, a former NRL player, came out in 1995.
The announcement comes just weeks after cricketer James Faulkner appeared to make a similar announcement on social media, only to later clarify he is not gay and that his post about having dinner with his “boyfriend” had been misinterpreted.
It also comes as rugby union star Israel Folau awaits his fate after posting a social media message that said hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.
Brennan is one of few footballers globally to come out after English footballer Justin Fashanu became the first in 1990. Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger is the highest-profile male footballer to announce he is gay, although he came out post-retirement in 2014.
“For people wondering why it is important for me to share this – the reality is, is that no straight person has to ever question how those around them might respond to their sexuality,” Brennan wrote.
“Being gay, in sport, and in the closet, it has been a mental burden of not knowing how those around you will react. It was a perceived pressure that consumed me. For so long, I wasn’t sure about myself and I certainly wasn’t comfortable talking about how I felt.”