Josh Cavallo, the only openly gay top-flight male professional footballer currently playing in world football, has declared that “hate will never win” after he was the target of anti-gay abuse during Adelaide United‘s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
In a post to his Instagram account, Cavallo revealed that had been the subject of anti-gay abuse from individuals in the stands and on social media after making a 36-minute appearance off the bench on Saturday evening; which concluded with him being walked past Victory’s active supporters after being withdrawn with a suspected concussion.
“I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” Cavallo wrote.
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“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 these people accountable.
“Hate never will win.
“I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football. To all the young people who have received homophobic abuse, hold your heads up high and keep chasing your dreams. Know that there is no place in the game for this.
“Football is a game for everyone no matter who you are, what colour your skin is or where you come from.”
Grimly acknowledging that he had expected to receive abuse in the wake of his revelation, Cavallo also called on Instagram to do more to tackle hateful messages that can be sent through the platform.
He also thanked those that had sent messages of support in the aftermath of the incident or who had called out on the abuse at the game.
“To Instagram, I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” wrote the 22-year-old.
“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.
“Thank you to all the positive messages, love and support from people all around the world, seeing that far outweighs the negativity. To the individuals that reached out after making a stand at the game. I commend you. Thank you to those fans, you had me emotional.”
Cavallo made headlines around the world in October when he revealed his truth to the world in a social media post, stating that after a six-year battle with his sexuality that he was “proud to publicly announce that I am gay.”
A global outpouring of support greeted the announcement, including a message of support from Victory’s official Twitter account, which replied to his announcement with “Well said, Josh. Proud of you.”
In a statement released following Cavallo’s post on Sunday, Victory condemned the abuse.
“Melbourne Victory has been made aware of homophobic comments directed towards Adelaide United player, Josh Cavallo during Saturday night’s clash with the Reds at AAMI Park,” the statement read.
“The Club is committed to celebrating diversity in football, and strongly condemns this behaviour which has no place at our club or in our game.
“Melbourne Victory sees football as a platform to unite fans no matter what background.
“Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches.
“The Club is working with the League, Stadium and Adelaide United to investigate the matter further.”
Cavallo’s club and Professional Footballers Australia, the union representing Australian footballers, also added their voices to the condemnation.
“We are appalled by the verbal abuse Josh received by fans at AAMI Park last night,” Adelaide CEO Nathan Kosmina said.
“Adelaide United is proud to be an inclusive and diverse football club, and to see one of our players subjected to homophobic abuse is disappointing and upsetting.
“Josh continues to show immense courage and we join him in calling out abuse, which has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated by our club.
“We will continue to work with the Australian Professional Leagues and Melbourne Victory to identify perpetrators and prosecute them accordingly.”
“Josh has shown his remarkable courage and those who sought to abuse him in the stadium and online have illustrated their cowardice,” PFA Co-Chief Executives Beau Busch and Kathryn Gill added in a joint statement.
“There is no place in our game, our society, for those who seek to direct abhorrent abuse at others.
“Josh will continue to have the full support of the PFA and his peers and we will work with the APL, and the authorities, to ensure that those who sought to subject Josh to vile abuse are dealt with and that as a game we live up to our zero-tolerance commitment.”