Words: Alastair James; pictures: Leon Tran
The world's only openly gay top-tier footballer, Josh Cavallo, has called out those shouting homophobic abuse at him over a game over the weekend, affirming that ultimately, "Love will always win".
During Adelaide United's game against Melbourne Victory on Saturday (8 January), Cavallo, who came out in October 2021, was targeted by spectators at the game at AAMI Park, as well as online.
Posting on Instagram on Sunday (9 January) the 22-year-old athlete said he had "no words" for how disappointed he was.
"Love will always win"
The young footballer wrote: "As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022. This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win.
"I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football," he added. Seeking to encourage young LGBTQ people he said: "To all the young people who have received homophobic abuse, hold your heads up high and keep chasing your dreams. Know that there is no place in the game for this.
"Football is a game for everyone no matter of [sic] who you are, what colour your skin is or where you come from."
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He also said it is a "sad reality" that platforms such as Instagram don't do enough to stop hateful messages.
Josh finished by thanking people for their positive and supportive messages which he said "far outweighs the negativity." He also commended those who stood up to some of the abuse he got before signing off with: "Love will always win".
Josh's club, Adelaide United, has also condemned the abuse while Melbourne Victory is investigating the abusive behaviour and in a statement said anyone found to have breached standards around diversity will be banned from all future matches.
The Club is committed to celebrating diversity in football, and strongly condemns this behavior which has no place at our Club or in our game.— Melbourne Victory (@gomvfc) January 9, 2022
Football Australia is also supporting Josh.
Speaking to the Attitude 101 issue last month, Josh said he wants to "represent the LGBTQ community, to be a role model and an icon for future generations. I want to be a voice heard loud and clear, to make sure everyone is accepted within society."
Discussing hiding his identity for so long he said there had been no negative reaction inside the changing room to his coming out.
"Once I told the team, shortly before I told the world, some of the boys were getting emotional. They felt bad that I had felt I had to hide myself for such a long time. They gave me hugs and said they were proud of me. The best thing was, five minutes later, we were all sat in the changing room and talking about football again.
"That’s how I wanted it to be. I wanted them to accept it and move on. I am still their mate and a footballer. Nobody has acted differently around me."
Watch more of Josh's interview with Attitude below:
The Attitude February issue is out now.