Adelaide United captain Stefan Mauk credited his club’s culture “re-set” for providing Josh Cavallo with a comfortable space to openly address his sexuality, as Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp became the latest big name in the game to laud the player for coming out.
A week after Cavallo publicly announced he was gay and said he knew there were other players “living in silence”, Klopp said he believed the world outside men’s professional football is more of an obstacle for players being open about their sexuality than inside dressing rooms.
Liverpool were one of innumerable high-profile clubs and players around the globe to publicly express support for the Adelaide player, but Klopp hoped the game would a reach a point when such announcements are “not necessary”.
“I think we all agree, it should not be like this,” Klopp said. “Obviously, Josh doing that and it being such a big story, that is the problem we have: that it’s not normal or that he has to make an announcement and that he’s not just living his private life, and nobody should be bothered by that.”
Cavallo, in his announcement, lamented that “being a gay closeted footballer, I’ve had to learn to mask my feelings in order to fit the mould of a professional footballer”.
Klopp believed that “mould” had more to do with external perceptions than the views of those inside the game.
“What I can tell you with 30 years in the industry, I never had a dressing room where it would have been a problem at all,” he said.
“The problem is not the inner circle, the problem is the wider thing. We all have to work on it. It’s very disappointing that we still have to work on it, but we have to work on it, that’s how it is.
“This kind of news is not necessary, nobody has to make an announcement like that. I didn’t have to say that I’m hetero. These types of things should just be completely normal.
“I saw his speech or announcement and he looks like a really strong, smart young man and I really wish him all the best.
“I’m really thankful that he did it because now we talk again and I’m not sure when was the last time we talked about this subject and now we talk again and that’s always a good start for changes.”
Adelaide United have already started that change ahead of the 2021-22 A-League Men’s season.
“A big thing that the club has really tried to re-set in the last couple of years is the culture,” Mauk said on Thursday.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t good, but how can we make it better? How can we make people feel comfortable off the field so that they can perform on it? It’s an easy thing to say and it’s a hard thing to do, and I think we have done that.
“Josh is now hopefully going to be playing even better than what he was before because he’s feeling a lot freer and more comfortable within the group. And it’s a great message that he brought up, that it doesn’t matter about who you are as a person – football is for everyone.”
This week, Matildas midfielder Katrina Gorry described being gay in football as “a really hard space, especially for male players”.
“We can get caught up when it happens but forget to support them along the way,” Gorry told Mamamia. “There are still struggles, and I’m sure he’ll face some hard times through it all … we’ve got to keep supporting him and make sure other players feel comfortable in doing exactly what he just did.”