Czech Republic international footballer Jakub Jankto has made the brave decision to publicly declare himself as being gay. The midfielder is currently on loan at Sparta Prague from Spanish side Getafe and becomes the first current international in men’s football, as well as the first La Liga player, to “come out” and has been widely praised for his actions, with top names such as Neymar voicing their support.
Former German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who also announced he was gay shortly after retiring back in 2014, was especially vocal in his backing, praising Jankto for “speaking up and leading the way for others to follow.”
In the last year two other players: Josh Cavallo at Adelaide United, and Jake Daniels at Blackpool have also had the courage to publicly declare their sexuality, with both receiving a lot of admiration and positivity for doing so.
Plea to be allowed to live without fear and prejudice
The 27-year-old Jankto, who made his senior debut for his country in 2017 and has score four times in his total of 45 caps so far, said in his emotional announcement on social media that he “no longer wants to hide”. He asked to be allowed to live his life in freedom and without fears, prejudice, or violence.
He stated that: “Like everybody else, I have my strengths, I have my weaknesses, I have a family, I have my friends; I have a job that I have been doing as best as I can for years with seriousness, with professionalism and passion.”
Literally back home for this season
Jankto previously played for Italian club Udinese, with a loan spell at fellow Italian outfit Ascoli preceding a move to Genoa based club, Sampdoria. He joined Getafe in 2021, but at the start of the current season they allowed him to go out on loan to Sparta Prague, which also happens to be his birth city.
Loan and parent clubs give full backing
Sparta’s official Twitter account retweeted the video that the player had released saying: “you have our support; live your life, Jakub.” In a further statement the club remarked that Jankto had openly discussed his sexual orientation with the club’s management, coach, and his team-mates some time ago and was fully supported by all.
Parent club Getafe were generous in their praise of their player, commenting: “Our utmost respect and unconditional support to our footballer Jakub Jankto.”
Support pours in
Fans overwhelmingly congratulated the player on his message, posting replies that spoke of “standing with him”, being “inspired by his great courage and strength” and thanking him for “showing bravery”. Others wished him happiness, with one commenting: “The world would be a better place if others follow your lead.” Brazil and PSG superstar Neymar said: “every human should be free”.
Australian league player became first male professional footballer “out”
Towards the end of 2021, Josh Cavallo then a 21-year-old Adelaide United midfielder, came out and in doing so he became then the only known current male top-flight professional footballer in the world to be “out”. The A-League player said at that time that he was “done with feeling ashamed” about his sexuality, and all that he wanted to do was play football and be treated equally.
He added: “I hope that in sharing who I am, I can show others who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcome in the football community.” He went on to talk of being tired of trying to perform at the best of his ability, but having to live a double life; calling it “exhausting”.
In an open and honest social media post which accompanied a video, Cavallo said he “could not be happier with my decision to come out”, saying he always felt the need to hide who he truly was growing up and mask his genuine feelings, in order to fit the mould of a professional footballer.
Players’ desire to help others feel comfortable “coming out”
Cavallo said his Adelaide team-mates and coaches had been like a family to him, and admitted that he experienced a sadness prior to hiding his “truth” through not being able to share his personal stories with the others, just as they did. He stated that he knew there were other players “living in silence” and he wanted to help evolve the game even further, and let other players in his situation feel that they are not alone.
“I want to help change this, to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football, and deserves the right to be their authentic self,” he said. He continued to make the point that in his words: “It is astonishing to know that there are currently no gay professional footballers who are out and actively playing, not only in Australia, but around the world.”
Young championship player became first in UK to come out in over 30 years
In 2022, for the first time in 32 years, a professional player in the UK came out as gay, when teenager Jake Daniels of Championship club Blackpool did so, to much publicity. Not since Justin Fashanu back in 1990 had any player been brave enough to put himself in the spotlight on the subject.
The young forward was incredibly open with his story, wanting he said, for people to know “the real me”, so he could be free and confident in himself. He admitted to suffering great anxiety when wondering if his family and team-mates would be supportive of him once he made his revelation.
As is often the case, when he did open up to his family, they told him they already knew and with a huge weight lifted off his shoulders, the 17-year-old proceeded to score four goals in a game the following day.
Hiding truth impacts on mental health
He admitted that in his school years he tried to cover up his sexuality by having girlfriends, but said he was just over-thinking things and living a lie. He reached the decision to tell the truth after concluding that he had to be able to lead the life he wanted to lead. Hiding the fact that he was gay he said was impacting on his mental heath.
Support from team-mates
He praised Blackpool Football Club and his team-mates for being incredibly supportive. Naturally there was some shock and there were lots of questions, mainly about why he hadn’t spoken out earlier, but without exception the reaction he said had been “brilliant”.
The period leading up to him coming out was quite a whirlwind for Daniels with him signing his first professional contract and making his debut in the first team. He said the decision to open up on his sexuality “just felt right,” and now he has done it he would like to be a role model for others in a similar position to him, or even those performing on an even higher stage.
As a level-headed young man the talented young player knows that homophobia still exists and he will be a target in stadiums and on social media, but his approach is: “I am playing football and they are shouting stuff at me, but they are paying to watch me play football and I am living my life and making money from it; so shout what you want, it’s not going to make a difference.”
Associations offer full support
The Professional Footballers’ Association made a statement backing the player: “We are extremely proud of Jake and have been working with him and his club. He has the complete support of everyone at the PFA.”
The English Football League Chief Executive, Trevor Birch, said: “Coming out publicly in professional football will have taken great courage and I have huge admiration for Jake Daniels’ decision to do so. As our national sport, football has a huge role to play as we seek to promote equality of all forms.”
The Football Association and Premier League also passed on their admiration for the courage shown by Daniels in coming out calling him an “inspiration”, and highlighting his move as “a positive step towards total inclusivity”, adding that they were “honoured” to support him.
More to follow?
It is to be hoped that Jankto receives as much positivity and continued support as both Cavallo and Daniels have done before him, and he can continue to enjoy the remainder of his career in a far happier place.
Whether this opens the path for other players right at the top of the game on the world stage, to come out remains to be seen. Every individual has their own story and their own set of circumstances, but Jankto’s courageous move can only be seen as a giant step in the right direction.