Sport Football Former Newcastle Jet Andy Brennan becomes first out gay male Australian soccer player

Former Newcastle Jet Andy Brennan becomes first out gay male Australian soccer player

Andy Brennan (centre) has become the first Australian professional soccer player to publicly come out as gay. Photo: Instagram
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Former Newcastle Jet Andy Brennan has become the first Australian male soccer player to announce he is gay, becoming only the second man in any of the nation’s major professional sporting codes to publicly come out.

Brennan, who played five games for the New South Wales coastal side in 2016, now figures as a striker for Green Gully in the semi-professional Victorian National Premier League.

He is also the brother of accomplished big-wave surfer Mikey.

Brennan’s announcement was immediately welcomed by an outpouring of support from players at the professional and semi-professional level, and fans alike.

The watershed moment came via an emotion-charged Instagram post, where he declared he now felt comfortable making “The final step; being completely open.”

“It’s taken me years to get comfortable saying this – I’m gay,” Brennan wrote.

“I was scared it would affect my friendships, my teammates, and my family. But the support of the people around me has been so great.”

In an interview with Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Brennan said the anguish of grappling with his sexuality existed during his A-League playing days, but “smokescreened” the struggles while his focus was firmly intent on playing professionally.

He says he only first started telling those close to him in November.

“It got to a point where I realised where I had to do something about it and accept who I am,” he said.

“I’ve never felt better being this way, and I’m glad I’m going through this.

“I think there will be people out there asking why I’m going out there to voice my own personal whatever to the world, but I’m only doing it for myself, first and foremost.

“If there’s people out there who have had that burden, it’s really important they see there’s someone else there who feels the same way, and it’s fine to be in a professional environment or a semi-professional environment.”

Brennan one of few international ‘out’ players

Brennan is among a handful of professional soccer players internationally to make the bold move, after English footballer Justin Fashanu was the first to publicly come out in 1990.

German international-level player Thomas Hitzlsperger, who won 52 caps for his national side, became the highest-profile footballer in the sport’s history to reveal he is gay in an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit in early 2014.

American Collin Martin, who plays for Minnesota United in the American National Soccer League, is the only out player currently competing at the professional level.

Brennan is only the second professional male athlete to come out in Australia’s major sporting codes

Looking locally, Brennan is only the second out male athlete to have played in Australia’s premier sporting codes, following Ian Roberts’ pioneering discussion of his sexuality in the 1990s.

Roberts was the first NRL player, and first professional rugby league player in the world, to publicly come out as gay, and has remained a vocal campaigner for the LGBTI+ community.

Leading into the 2017 non-binding vote on same-sex marriage in Australia, Roberts pressured league bosses to endorse the ‘yes’ vote and prompt them to not “miss this moment in history”.

“This is about being brave. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about saving lives because that’s the power our game has. It is a game for everyone,” Roberts wrote in the letter, which prompted chief executive Todd Greenberg’s support.

Brennan’s announcement comes less than a month after Australian cricketer James Faulkner courted controversy after seeming to make light of the coming out experience in a now-edited Instagram post.

And his story airs amid the ongoing saga involving Israel Folau and Rugby Australia, which could see the Wallabies star’s $4 million deal end for an Instagram post attacking homosexuality.

Folau’s religious fundamentalist post suggested queer people were destined for hell.

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