Former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan has become the first Australian male professional footballer to come out as gay.
The 26-year-old Brennan, who now plays upfront for Victorian Premier League club Green Gully, made the announcement on his Instagram account on Tuesday.
“It’s taken me years to get comfortable saying this — I’m gay,” he said.
Live Stream the 2019 Hyundai A-League Finals on KAYO SPORTS. Every game of the finals live & anytime on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14 day free trial >
“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”
Brennan spoke to the Herald-Sun about how hiding his sexuality had become an unbearable burden that he could no longer carry.
“Six months ago I thought about it a lot, tried to hide it and push it aside because of the way I thought it would be perceived by many,’’ Brennan said.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t waste any more time being in relationships that I wasn’t comfortable in and wouldn’t come to anything.
“You’ve got to realise that’s who you are and you’ve just got to be who you are, whether you’re gay or whatever, whoever you are.
“Since being at Gully especially, it’s always been on my mind that this person doesn’t know or that person does know, what will they think? It’s just a complete mind overload, your mind’s battling yourself. All you want to do is kick a ball about and play.
“There will be people out there thinking why has he got to voice his own personal whatever to the world. The reason I wanted to do this in the first place was to make me feel comfortable.
“It’s been a big lift off my shoulders and I can just focus on playing football.”
Brennan, who played five games for the Newcastle Jets in 2016, says he was still grappling with his identity back then.
“I was focused on playing, even though I was injured at times and put all my focus into it. Maybe that in some ways smokescreened it and helped me put it aside,” he said.
“Statistically speaking, people playing sport, whether it would be football or AFL or any sport, you’d think there were more who would be gay.
“There is a bit of stigma within the sport and if people are going through what I went through, (they may think) it’s not okay because of not being accepted.”
Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) chief executive John Didulica said: “It is really encouraging that football has provided Andy a safe and inclusive environment to share his story and to feel comfortable to come out publicly.”
We’re not doing our job well enough if participants have a perception that their sexuality prevents them excelling or from building the trusting friendships that are the cornerstone of sport.”
American player Collin Martin, who plays for Minnesota United, is believed to be the only out gay male player in a top division around the world, although former Germany and Aston Villa star Thomas Hitzlsperger came out in 2014.