Remember the ‘anonymous gay footballer? Rugby star Gareth Thomas says he’s real.

Gareth Thomas (left) with UK PM David Cameron

Controversy continues over the now-deleted Twitter account of an anonymous British footballer who was set to come out several weeks ago. Now out-gay rugby player Gareth Thomas has says the two have had contact.

Thomas, the star of the upcoming documentary Gareth Thomas v Homophobia: The Legacy about his own battles with homophobia in pro sports, confirmed to The Daily Star that he had spoken with the player on the phone, which seems to confirm that the Twitter account was not a hoax as some have speculated.

Related: So about that ‘anonymous footballer’ coming out on Twitter…

“Away from the cameras,” Thomas says, “I reached out to him and offered him my support and gave him my number and he called me. I never asked him his name but he told me the club he played for. He is a young kid who had an understanding of who he was but didn’t have an understanding of where he fitted in.”

Thomas also confirms that the player deleted the Twitter account after becoming overcome by fear. “There is vitriol towards him because he has decided that he is not ready for it,” Thomas says. “But it is his decision to make.”

The anonymous Twitter account first appeared earlier this year and posted periodic updates saying he would reveal his identity July 24. Instead, the user deleted the account after posting “I thought I was strong enough. I’m not.”

Gareth Thomas knows a thing or two about homophobia in the world of sports. He came out in 2009: the first-ever pro-rugby player to do so.