(LA Blade) Professional soccer player Josh Cavallo, who became the only openly gay top-flight male professional footballer last year, told his Instagram followers over the weekend that he experienced “homophobic abuse” during his last game.
The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd at AAMI Park during his team’s Saturday game against the Melbourne Victory.
“As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022,” he wrote. “This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologize for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”
Cavallo added that he was also targeted after the game online.
“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 (APL) said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear Cavallo’s reports of “homophobic bullying,” according to the Guardian.
“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 behavior.”
The APL is working with both teams to investigate the incident, adding that sanctions will be issued to anyone involved.
In a statement, Adelaide United Chief Executive Officer Nathan Kosmina said that the team was “appalled” at the “verbal abuse” that Cavallo received.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The Melbourne Victory added that it “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.”
At the end of his Instagram message, Cavallo thanked those sending him positive messages, love and support.
“Love will always win,” he said.