Andy Brennan (R) during an FFA Cup match. (Robert Prezioso/Getty)
Andy Brennan, the first openly gay male professional footballer in Australia’s A-League, has opened up about the reaction he’s had since coming out earlier.
Brennan said that since he first spoke publicly about his sexuality in May, the response has been “amazing”.
“You build it in your head that everyone’s going to react badly,” he told BBC Newsbeat.
“I had to be myself. If anyone had anything bad to say I couldn’t really care because it’s who I wanted to be.
“Negative opinions shouldn’t matter because there is so much support.”
Hiding his sexuality affected the footballer mentally.
In his coming out essay, Brennan spoke of the mental pressures that come with hiding your sexuality.
“Being gay, in sport, and in the closet, it has been a mental burden of not knowing how those around you will react. It was a perceived pressure that consumed me,” he wrote.
“For so long, I wasn’t sure about myself and I certainly wasn’t comfortable talking about how I felt. I guess I was grappling with a reality that I wasn’t really aware of.”
I was grappling with a reality that I wasn’t really aware of.
Speaking to the BBC, he compared being in the closet to living “this double life where you’ve got a secret about yourself and you don’t want people to find out”.
He said that the mental pressures began to affect his performance on the pitch.
“When you go to training you need to focus on your game… not on your sexuality. But it’s hard not to think about it because the two are so intertwined. It’s your life.”
Gay footballers are a small pool.
Brennan is one of a small handful of high profile male footballers to come out as gay anywhere in the world.
Justin Fashanu was the first, and to this day remains the only British player to come out while playing in the English Premier League.
Thomas Hitzlsperger became only the second EPL player to come out in 2014, following his retirement. The German international played for Aston Villa at the start of his career and also had a spell with West Ham.
Earlier this year an anonymous Twitter user claimed to be an English Premier League footballer who intended to come out gay.
The user amassed 50,000 followers before announcing that he didn’t feel “strong enough” to reveal his identity.