Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels has come out as gay, making him the first professional soccer player in the UK to come out since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

Daniels, 17, made the announcement in a statement released by his team.

“This season has been a fantastic one for me on the pitch,” Daniels wrote. “But off the pitch I’ve been hiding the real me and who I really am. I’ve known my whole life that I’m gay, and I now feel that I’m ready to come out and be myself.”

“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,” he said.

Daniels also had some encouraging words for LGBTQ youth who are struggling with coming out.

“There are people out there in the same space as me that may not feel comfortable revealing their sexuality. I just want to tell them that you don’t have to change who you are, or how you should be, just to fit in,” he said. “You being you, and being happy, is what matters most.”

Speaking with Sky News, Daniels said that he wanted to be a role model.

“I am hoping that by coming out, I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to,” he said. “I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant.”