Jake Daniels has come out as gay, making him the only active male professional footballer in the UK to do so, and one of a handful worldwide.
The 17-year-old Blackpool forward made a ground-breaking announcement at the end of his first season with the Championship club.
“This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch,” he said in a statement.
“But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself."
“It’s a step into the unknown being one of the first footballers in this country to reveal my sexuality.”
Daniels said he was inspired by Adelaide United's Josh Cavallo, who is the only openly gay man currently playing top-flight football around the world.
While women’s football features many prominent LGBT+ players, the men’s professional game lacks players who are publicly gay.
“I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in,” Daniels said.
“I want to be a role model myself by doing this. There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality."
“I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in. You being you, and being happy, is what matters most.”
Daniels said teammates at Blackpool embraced his sexuality after he confided in them. The English club said it was “incredibly proud that he has reached a stage where he is empowered to express himself both on and off the pitch.”
'Being you and being happy is what matters most'
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the English Football Association have also described Daniels as an "inspiration".
“This is a hugely positive step as we strive to build an inclusive game that we can all be proud of," the FA said on Twitter.
"We are with you and we hope your story will help to give people across the game the strength and encouragement to be their true selves.”
Activists have long been bemoaning a lack of progress in men's football on homosexuality.
In 1990, English footballer Justin Fashanu was the last male professional who publically came out as gay. Fashanu later committed suicide in 1998.
Meanwhile, former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in 2014, a year after his retirement.
"Well done Jake Daniels, have a wonderful career!" Hitzlsperger tweeted on Monday. Great to see the support of Blackpool FC and [the LGBT+ charity] Stonewall to make this possible!"
"There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality," Daniels said.
"I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in. You being you, and being happy, is what matters most."