Former Hyundai A-League player Andy Brennan has spoken about the mental anguish he endured hiding his sexuality, after becoming the first Australian male football player to come out as gay.
Brennan, who played for the Newcastle Jets in 2016, made the courageous revelation in the Herald Sun newspaper.
The 26-year-old revealed he had wrestled for a long time with whether to be open with his sexuality but simply couldn’t carry the mental burden any longer.
When he finally built up the courage to tell a close friend last November, it was a huge weight off his shoulders.
“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 told the Herald-Sun.
“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 got to be who you are – whether you’re gay or whatever, whoever you are.
“There will be people out there thinking 'why has he got to voice his own personal whatever to the world?’. The reason I wanted to do this in the first place was to make me feel comfortable.
“It’s been a big lift off my shoulders and I can just focus on playing football.”
Brennan, who had a girlfriend up until last June, currently plays for Green Gully in the Victorian National Premier Leagues.
He admitted there’s a certain stigma within sport that has perhaps stopped others revealing their sexuality for fear of not being accepted.
While he is comfortable with his decision to go public, he does not want to pressure others to do the same if they aren’t ready.
“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.
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“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 — 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.”