Josh Cavallo, who last year became the only openly gay professional top flight men’s footballer in the world, says he has “no words” to describe his disappointment at being targeted by homophobic abuse during an A-League Men game over the weekend.
The Adelaide United player came on as a second-half substitute during the Reds’ away game at Melbourne Victory on Saturday night and said afterwards that he had received abuse from the crowd at AAMI Park.
The 22-year-old received acclaim from across the globe in October when he came out via Adelaide’s social media channels. Players past and present from Gerard Piqué, Raphaël Varane and Marcus Rashford to Gary Lineker, Robin van Persie and Joey Barton, plus clubs including Liverpool and Juventus, all lined up to show their support.
But just two months later, Cavallo has found himself having to call out abuse from the stands.
“I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” Cavallo wrote on Instagram on Sunday. “There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society this shows we still face these problems in 2022.
“This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold this [sic] people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”
Cavallo also said he was targeted after the game on Instagram and used his own post to call out the social media platform for the way it deals with homophobic abuse.
“To Instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he said. “I knew truly being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”
The Australian Professional Leagues said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the reports of the “homophobic bullying”.
“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch,” APL CEO Danny Townsend said. “There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour.”