Gay footballer Jake Daniels feels 'betrayed' by players switching to Saudi clubs

23 November 2023, 00:36 | Updated: 23 November 2023, 01:11

Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels
Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels. Picture: Getty

By Seb Cheer

Jake Daniels, one of the world’s only openly gay active professional male footballers, has told LBC he feels “betrayed” by other football stars’ moves to the Saudi Pro League.

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The Blackpool striker was 17 years old when he came out publicly in May 2022, becoming the first active men’s player in the UK to do so since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

In a statement at the time, he said that he’d “hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this.”

Speaking to LBC 18 months on, Daniels has described that moment as “a big step forward for LGBTQ+ in football.”

However, he says the World Cup in Qatar seven months later was “five steps back... and we’re back to square one".

“It was hurtful to see that. If I was playing in a World Cup, I wouldn’t feel safe going over there," he said.

Despite homosexuality being illegal in the country, FIFA insisted LGBTQ+ fans would be able to enjoy the tournament in Qatar safely. However, rainbow armbands for captains were banned.

Daniels believes it could prevent higher-profile players who are gay from revealing their sexuality, as it may “jeopardise their chances in football.”

He says he had to consider whether his football chances would be limited by his sexuality, before coming out.

Jake Daniels
Jake Daniels. Picture: Alamy

This summer, former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was widely criticised over his move to Saudi Arabia, another country where homosexuality is illegal.

The England defender now plays for Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq, managed by former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard.

Read More: 'Utter hypocrisy!': Ben Kentish lambasts 'supposed LGBTQ+ ally' Jordan Henderson for Saudi Arabia transfer

Read More: Jordan Henderson's new Saudi club 'hides LGBT pride captain's armband' in awkward promotional video

Daniels told LBC the pair “supported me so much since coming out, and then they’ve gone over there".

“[I feel] kind of a bit betrayed in a way.

“I know they haven’t done it deliberately. The money’s good over there, I can’t lie.

“But my feelings and feelings towards the LGBTQ+ community, it’s just kind of going the wrong way about it.”

Henderson responded to criticism in September, telling The Athletic it was never his intention to hurt anyone.

Asked about Newcastle United’s Saudi-backed ownership, Daniels told LBC: “If, say, I was playing for Newcastle, I don’t know if I’d be able to come out because of the ownership and you just, again, don’t want it to jeopardise your football career.”

In 2021, the Premier League said it had received legally-binding assurances from owners, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, that the Saudi state would not be able to control Newcastle United.

In the 18 months since making history by coming out, Daniels has been met with support from sporting and LGBTQ+ communities worldwide, being named a ‘game changer’ at a recent LGBTQ+ awards ceremony.

He told LBC it’s been a “whirlwind. It still doesn’t feel like it’s sunk in.”

“I feel like I’ve grown so much maturer. I’m so much happier.

“I’m happy I [came out] when I was young, as it’s made me grow as a person and realise the different things that need to change.

“Hopefully, because I’m young, I can change them, by the time I get old.”