Former A-League player comes out as gay
FORMER A-League player Andy Brennan admitted that hiding his sexuality had become a mental burden that he could no longer carry.
Brennan, now playing with Melbourne club Green Gully, has made the courageous decision to become the first Australian male soccer player to come out as gay.
Brennan, who had a girlfriend as recently as June, revealed the relief he's felt since first telling a close mate last November.
"Six months ago I thought about it a lot, tried to hide it and push it aside because of the way I thought it would be perceived by many,'' Brennan said.
"You've got to go through stages to understand that you can't keep living this, I suppose, lie to yourself that one day you're going to be happy if you want a family.
"It got to the point where I couldn't waste any more time being in relationships that I wasn't comfortable in and wouldn't come to anything.
"You've got to realise that's who you are and you've just gotta be who you are, whether you're gay or whatever, whoever you are.
"Since being at Gully especially, it's always been on my mind that this person doesn't know or that person does know, what will they think? It's just a complete mind overload, your mind's battling yourself. All you want to do is kick a ball about and play.
"It's been a big lift off my shoulders and I can just focus on playing football."
Brennan, who played five games for Newcastle Jets in 2016, said he was still grappling with his sexuality back then, before finally breaking the ice last November.
"Not at all. At that point I hadn't wanted to accept it, hadn't thought of it too much,'' he said.
"I was focused on playing, even though I was injured at times and put all my focus into it. Maybe that in some ways smokescreened it and helped me put it aside.
"Statistically speaking, people playing sport, whether it would be football or AFL or any sport, you'd think there were more who would be gay.
"There is a bit of stigma within the sport and if people are going through what I went through, (they may think) it's not okay because of not being accepted."
US player Collin Martin (Minnesota United) is the only out gay male player in a top division around the world, while non-League player Liam Davis is the most prominent current example in English soccer, though ex-Germany and Aston Villa star Thomas Hitzlsperger came out in 2014.
Brennan, 26, has no idea on the effects of his decision to go public, and didn't want to pressure others.
"This isn't a call for those people to come out and tell everyone who they are. They shouldn't have to, shouldn't need to,'' Brennan said.
"I did it this way because this is what is going to make me most comfortable, being open and honest with who I am.
"From there (if) people long - be it teenagers, A-League or AFL players - see inspiration and end up telling one person, that can really open them up and make them feel much better.
"If there's people out who've had that burden, especially playing sport and feel like they can't be who they are in a professional or amateur environment, it's vital they see others accepted.
"My Gully teammates and coaches have been great. I haven't felt uncomfortable with them, and that's the biggest thing."
Players' union chief executive John Didulica hailed Brenna's announcement a significant moment, but said there was work to do.
"It is really encouraging that football has provided Andy a safe and inclusive environment to share his story and to feel comfortable to come out publicly,'' Didulica said.
"Sports and sporting clubs, whether community or professional, are a platform for helping people become the best version of themselves. We're not doing our job well enough if participants have a perception that their sexuality prevents them excelling or from building the trusting friendships that are the cornerstone of sport."