Blackpool player Jake Daniels reflects on coming out as gay, the controversial Iker Casillas tweet and the World Cup being hosted in Qatar.
Earlier in the summer of 2022, the 17-year-old made history by becoming the first openly gay male footballer in English football since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
He made the announcement via Sky Sports, hoping to help others struggling, and it saw him receive widespread praise across the world, including the likes of Prince Williams, Boris Johnson and Harry Kane.
He told Vogue: “I ball-boy’d for Blackpool last week. I [found myself] signing stuff and taking pictures. All my mates were walking past going, ‘Oh, my God, he’s so big time!’”
One occasion saw a fan of Daniels’ travel from Monaco to see him. He said: “I didn’t know what to say. It’s like, ‘Bloody hell – worldwide‘.”
Daniels said that the reaction to his first interview in May with Sky Sports was ‘overwhelmingly positive’.
He said: “Jordan Henderson had messaged me and [my agent] screenshotted it and sent it to me. I was like, ‘Uh! I want to see them all’”
“Then, obviously, I had the phone call from Elton John,” he adds. “That was crazy. I didn’t know what to say. I was just like, ‘You all right? What do I call ya?’.”
On the day the story was published, Daniels’ agent took control of his social media channels to help protect him.
“Jordan Henderson had messaged me and [my agent] screenshotted it and sent it to me. I was like, ‘uh! I want to see them all,” he added.
“Then I had a phone call from Elton John. That was crazy. I didn’t know what to say. I was just like, ‘you all right? What do I call ya?’”
Daniels has helped others, with Scottish footballer Zander Murray crediting the Blackpool player for his decision to come out in September.
“I’ve been inspirational but that’s not the label I should have. That’s just my life,” Daniels said.
“I want to push the community to get where it should be, especially in football and all sport.
“When I did get my Instagram back and I saw some of the messages, it was people’s mums saying, ‘you’ve made my son come out.’ That’s an impact I wanted to have.”
There is still a lot of work to do though. Back in September, Real Madrid and Spain legend Iker Casillas caused controversy when he pretended to come out as a response to media speculation about girlfriends.
“It was clumsy and disrespectful,” Daniels said.
“Coming out is probably the hardest thing I ever had to do, so of course it hurts to see people I admired making fun of something that was so real and so difficult for me.
“If we are going to move football forwards then people need to be accountable, apologise and learn from their mistakes. I think it’s important to accept those apologies.”
Daniels also spoke about the issue of the upcoming World Cup being held in Qatar.
“I’m not the happiest,” he admitted.
“I know [some] people wanted to boycott it, which would have been good, but the World Cup’s massive.
“If you’re comfortable to go and do it, you do it.”
When questioned if he would feel comfortably playing in a country like Qatar, Daniels concluded: “No, in my opinion, I wouldn’t.
“It would frustrate me, because why am I trying to hide my personal life for other people?
“I’m going to play football for you and you can’t respect how I want to be, so it’s just not what I want to do.”
The tournament is being held in one most dangerous places in the world to be a member of the LGBT+ community.
Homosexuality is outlawed in the Middle Eastern country, with LGBT+ Qataris revealing they have been arrested and beaten by security forces.
“I’m not the happiest. I know [some] people wanted to boycott it, which would have been good, but the World Cup’s massive. If you’re comfortable to go and do it, you do it.”
Daniels has become a role model for the LGBT+ community since he made the brave move to come out. But he wants to show people that he is much more than just the ‘gay footballer’.
“I’ve been inspirational. but that’s not the label I should have. That’s just my life. I want to push the community to get where it should be, especially in football and all sport,” he added. “When I did get my Instagram back and I saw some of the messages, it was people’s mums saying, ‘You’ve made my son come out.’ That’s an impact I wanted to have. Me and my mum definitely spoke about it.
“She was like, ‘People are now going to see if Jake Daniels is a good footballer and he’s not come out for a publicity stunt,’ because obviously it’s not what I’ve done. I know that people are going to be watching me, but it’s all going to be watching me for the right reasons.”
As the Blackpool player reflects on coming out as gay, the Iker Casillas tweet and the World Cup, what did you make of what he said? Let us know via our socials.