Published: 15:38, 17 May 2022
| Updated: 15:50, 17 May 2022
Former Sheppey United player Jahmal Howlett-Mundle says he feels a sense of pride as Blackpool FC's Jake Daniels comes out as gay.
After coming out as bisexual to his team last year at the age of 24, he hopes that the bravery of 17-year-old Jake will inspire the next generation of LGBTQ + players
National headlines have been dominated by the news that Jake Daniels is the first professional player in the UK to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
In a statement from Blackpool FC he said: "I’ve hated lying my whole life and feeling the need to change to fit in. I want to be a role model myself by doing this."
The teenager shared his sexuality with the world at the end of a season in which he scored more than 30 goals and made his professional debut in the Championship.
He has since received a wave of supportive messages from fans, as well as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the England captain, Harry Kane.
It was a similar story last year for Jahmal.
Jahmal Howlett-Mundle came out to his team at Sheppey United last year
He said: "For him to be 17 and only recently turning 17, and making a decision that is of course going to shape the outcome of his future is honestly amazing.
"It's incredible that he's recently made his pro debut in the Championship, recently signed his first professional contract, all while keeping his sexuality private.
"He scored 40 goals this season and it seems like he's had such a good season.
"I can't speak on his behalf but I do truly believe that he may not have had as good of a season as he's had, if he didn't start being comfortable within himself."
However, Jahmal warns that he may face some backlash and abuse from fans and players for this brave decision.
In the recent season, Jahmal says he has faced homophobic slurs from opposition players on the pitch on two occasions, including during the Kent Senior Trophy final against Hollands & Blair.
He said: "I think that was something that I certainly had to consider for quite a while, before coming out you know.
"I had to sort of run through so many different scenarios and how I could potentially react to them.
"That time I actually cried for like two or three minutes."
Jahmal hopes that Jake is able to take comments in his stride and do his job with "a big smile on his face".
He added: "For me to have gone through that and experienced that and then still be in a really good mental space, I think is really important because it could potentially be something that Jake faces unfortunately.
"We do have some really ignorant and uneducated people in the world that may not necessarily understand that in order for him to go and do his job, which football is, it's a job, he needs to be as comfortable as he can be.
"So it's not fair that people could potentially say negative things towards him.
"He should be able to go where he wants, and wear what he wants with who he wants."
In Tom Daley's Alternative Christmas Message for Channel 4 in December, he said that his one wish was for a Premier League player to come forward and say they are gay.
Although not in the Premier League, Jahmal feels Jake coming out will relieve the pressure from professional players who were having their sexuality questioned by fans and the media.
At times Jahmal felt it was like "a hunt for the unicorn", with people desperate to find out who in the Premier League is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of whether the person would be comfortable to reveal that information publicly.
He said: "It was always that silhouette image of a player that has said they're going to come out, and everyone wondering who it is - it's not fair on anybody.
"It's not for anybody else to go and expose that information if they're not ready to do so because that could be really internally damaging, you know, not only to the player themselves, but to their family, to their team mates, and it creates a speculation that isn't necessary."
Looking ahead to the future of the game, Jahmal hopes this will help young LGBTQ+ people feel more comfortable to come out and believe that they can do anything whilst being open about their sexuality.
He continued: "I mean, we're in 2022, you know, like, get on with it, let him enjoy himself.
"I think you should just be confident, be comfortable, and then you're the only person that is essentially in control of how you move forward from there".