Soccer-Blackpool forward Jake Daniels announces he is gay

LONDON (Reuters) - Blackpool forward Jake Daniels announced on Monday that he is gay, becoming the first active male British professional soccer player to do so since the late Justin Fashanu in 1990.

The 17-year-old told Sky Sports television his team mates at the second tier (Championship) club had been supportive of his groundbreaking move and he hoped to become a role model for others.

Daniels said he had been thinking for a long time about how to tell his story, and living a lie had been affecting his mental health.

"For a long time I've thought I would have to hide my truth because I wanted to be, and now I am, a professional footballer. I asked myself if I should wait until I've retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out," he said.

"However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to."

Daniels said his mother and sister had reacted by saying "yeah, we already knew" and he had received many supportive messages.

"The day after I told my mum and sister, we played Accrington (under-18s) and I scored four goals, so it just shows how much of a weight off the shoulders and what a massive relief it was," he added.

Fashanu, who played for the England under-21s and in the top flight with Norwich City and Nottingham Forest, was Britain's first million pound ($1.23 million) Black player.

He came out late in his career and hanged himself in 1998, aged 37.

There is still no openly gay player in the Premier League.

"The subject of being gay, or bi or queer in men's football, is still a taboo. I think it comes down to how a lot of footballers want to be known for their masculinity," said Daniels.

"People see being gay as being weak, something you can be picked on for on the football field. Of course I am aware that there will be a reaction to this and some of it will be homophobic, maybe in a stadium and on social media.

"The way I see it is that 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."

($1 = 0.8147 pounds)

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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