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First male top-tier professional soccer player to come out as gay proposes to partner on home pitch

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Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo — the first top-tier male professional player in the sport to come out as gay — proposed to his partner on the field at his team's home stadium.

Cavallo, a midfielder for Adelaide United, announced Wednesday on social media that he was engaged to his fiancé, Leighton Morrell, and thanked his A-League club for its "endless support" and for helping him pop the question on the field at Coopers Stadium in South Australia. 

"You have provided a safe space in football, one that I never in my dreams thought could ever be possible, and encouraged me to live everyday of my life authentically,"  Cavallo wrote of the team. "It felt right to share this special moment on the pitch, where it all started." A series of photos showed Cavallo on one knee popping the question and the moment after he proposed. 

A-League Men Rd 16 - Adelaide United v Perth Glory
Josh Cavallo, the first openly gay male soccer player, proposed to his boyfriend on the field at his team's home stadium in Australia.  Maya Thompson/Getty Images

Cavallo's engagement comes more than two years after he came out publicly in a video posted by his team. In it, he admitted that trying to perform while living a "double life" was an "exhausting effort," something he doesn't want anyone else to go through.

"Growing up, I always felt the need to hide myself because I was ashamed — ashamed I would never be able to do what I loved and be gay, hiding who I truly am to pursue a dream I've always wished for as a kid. All I want to do is play football and be treated equally," he said. 

Few players in the professional men's soccer world have publicly come out as gay. In 2019, Andy Brennan, who plays for the semi-pro team South Melbourne Football Club, became the first Australian professional men's player to come out while still an active player. Czech Republic midfielder Jakub Jankto revealed last year that he is gay, making him and Cavallo the only two openly gay players on top-tier teams.  Former U.S. national team member Robbie Rogers came out in 2013 when he announced his retirement from professional soccer. However, he went on to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy and became the first openly gay Major League Soccer player. 

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