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British soccer player Jake Daniels comes out as gay

A young soccer player in the UK has come out as gay. Jake Daniels, 17, plays for the Blackpool FC in the north of England. He told Sky News, “Now is the right time to do it. I feel like I am ready to tell people my story. I want people to know the real me.

“I have been thinking for a long time about how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time. I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.

“I can’t really put a date on it, but I was probably five or six years old when I knew I was gay. So it’s been a long time that I have been living with the lie.

“At that age you don’t really think that football and being gay doesn’t mix. You just think, one day, when I’m older I’ll get a girlfriend and I will change and it will be fine.

“But as you get older you realize you can’t just change. It doesn’t work like that.”

Related: Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo comes out as gay

Daniels was born in Bispham, near Blackpool. He said that being open about his sexuality removes a weight from his shoulders.

“I told my mum and my sister. The day after we played Accrington and I scored four, so it just shows how much of a weight off the shoulders it was and a massive relief.”

After playing for the youth squad, Daniels only made his debut for the first team last month. He said he considered waiting until he retired to talk about his sexuality. However, given he’s only 17, that could mean many years spent lying or hiding his sexuality.

He says he’s had plenty of support since telling his family and teammates about his sexuality.

He said his mom and sister said they “already knew”, but his teammates were more surprised.

“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.”

Daniels is the first British soccer player to come out while playing since Justin Fashanu in 1990. However, Fashanu came out at the end of his career and faced a very mixed reaction. He ended up dying by suicide in 1998, aged 37.

Related: The moment Tom Daley discovers he’s won Olympic gold with partner Matty Lee

In a statement on the Blackpool FC website, Daniels said he’d been enjoying a great season with Blackpool, “But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.

“It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality, but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.”

Many have posted messages of support, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tweeted, “Thank you for your bravery Jake, it would have taken huge courage to come out and you will be an inspiration to many both on and off the pitch.”

A representative of Daniels’ club, Ciaran Donnelly, Blackpool Academy Director, said, “We’re just immensely proud of him.”

Actor Ian McKellen was another who posted a message of support.