APL condemns harmful behaviour as Adelaide’s Cavallo calls out homophobic abuse

Openly gay Adelaide United defender Josh Cavallo called out homophobic abuse directed at him during the club’s Isuzu UTE A-League away match against Melbourne Victory, while the APL promised sanctions for those found guilty of the “harmful behaviour”.

Cavallo, currently the only out gay player in a top-tier men’s football league worldwide, came on as a substitute in the 54th minute of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at AAMI Park.

He said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at receiving abuse from the crowd and on Instagram, but also noted he appreciated hearing from other fans who’d made contact after “making a stand at the game” against it.

The abuse came just over two months after the 22-year-old made international headlines and received worldwide support when he came out via social media and Adelaide’s online channels on October 27.

“I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” Cavallo said on Instagram on Sunday.

“There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society this shows we still face these problems in 2022. 

“This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold this (sic) people accountable. Hate never will win. 

“I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”

Cavallo said in addition to abuse at the game, he’d also received “hateful and hurtful messages” on Instagram.

“To @instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he said.

“I knew truly being who I am that I was going to come across this.

“It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”

The abuse was roundly condemned on Sunday and Victory said they were working with the APL, AAMI Park and Adelaide on an investigation.

“Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches,” Victory said in a statement.

APL chief executive Danny Townsend said the league would “issue sanctions to any people found to be involved”.

“The APL was shocked and saddened to hear reports of homophobic bullying at last night’s Melbourne Victory vs Adelaide United A-Leagues match, directed towards Josh Cavallo,” the statement read.

“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch. There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have  zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour. 

“We are working with both clubs to investigate the incident and will issue sanctions to any people found to be involved. 

“We fully support Josh Cavallo and want to ensure he can focus on his football performance, rather than on vile abuse. We will continue to concentrate our efforts on creating safe and welcoming A-Leagues for all.”

Adelaide CEO Nathan Kosmina said the Reds were “appalled” by the abuse.

“Adelaide United is proud to be an inclusive and diverse football club, and to see one of our players subjected to homophobic abuse is disappointing and upsetting,” he said.

“Josh continues to show immense courage and we join him in calling out abuse, which has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated by our club.

“We will continue to work with the Australian Professional Leagues and Melbourne Victory to identify perpetrators and prosecute them accordingly.”

PFA co-chief executives Beau Busch and Kathryn Gill described the abuse as “abhorrent” and said those who had targeted Cavallo had “illustrated their cowardice”.

Cavallo was forced from Saturday’s game in the 97th minute after copping a stray elbow from Victory’s Lleyton Brooks, suffering blurry vision in one eye, though he was later cleared of concussion.