A trailblazing footballer has become the first man in the beautiful game to come out as bisexual – and has been greeted with overwhelming support by his teammates.
The magic moment when his team supported Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, who plays for Sheppey United, as he spoke about his sexuality was caught on camera.
The brave 24-year-old defender said he felt it was the “right time” to be honest with himself, his loved ones, and his teammates by being honest with his sexuality – and hopes it will give others the confidence to follow suit.
There is not a single gay man open to the public about his sexuality in the Premier League.
The first top flight footballer to come out was Justin Fashanu, the first black striker to command a £1 million transfer fee, but he took his own life eight years later in 1998.
Semi-professional Jahmal said: “I’m not the type of person to reveal large parts of my personal life and usually keep myself to myself.
“I certainly felt it was the right time to be honest with myself and my loved ones and by being open about my sexuality, maybe it will give others the confidence to follow suit.
“Football still has room for improvement in terms of players coming out and being themselves, but with the likes of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Thomas Beattie having done so, it’s slowly starting to evolve.
“We have seen other sports people like Gareth Thomas and Tom Daley come out years ago and they are great role models for people like me.”
He added: “I believe I’ll be a better version of the Jahmal you already know.
“Whatever anyone’s sexuality, you should not be treated any differently – I’m just as hungry as any other player to step onto the football pitch and give my all to win for our team and our supporters.
“I always wished I had somebody that looked like me, that grew up where I grew up and played football to look up to when I was younger.”
Jahmal said he was thankful to all at Kent-based Sheppey United, who play in the Southern Counties East League Premier Division, for the support he had since received.
He added: “I’m overwhelmed by the support I’ve received by my teammates and the staff here at Sheppey United since I told them the news.
“The club have been great in supporting me and I look forward to having a great season with them as we look to start our promotion push at the weekend.”
Marcel Nimani, Sheppey United’s assistant manager, praised Jahmal’s bravery.
He said: “Jahmal is a great footballer and leader for us on the pitch and an inspirational influencer off the field.
“In the 21st Century, sexual orientation of a person is a normal existence in our society, but unfortunately in football it’s not quite the case.
“Bravery acts like Jahmal’s play a massive part in normalising members of the LGBTQIA+ community within football. I believe these acts go a long way in supporting many struggling sports people.
“I thank Jahmal for the trust that he has put into our club and we as a club are fully supportive of Jahmal in what is an emotional time for him.”
Other male professional football players to come out include Anton Hysén, the son of former Swede international Glenn Hysén, who came out in 2011 while playing for Swedish Division 2 team Utsiktens BK.
American player Robbie Rogers, who briefly played for Leeds United as well as having fixtures on the US national side, came in 2013 and retired three years later.
In 2014, the Dutch player Thomas Hitzlsperger came out a year after officially retiring as a player.
In the same year, semi-professional Liam Davis came out as gay and most recently played for Cleethorpes Town in 2016.
Thomas Beattie, who rose through the Academy ranks at Hull City before playing professionally in Canada, US and Singapore, came out in 2020 five years after retiring following a life-threatening injury.