Zander Murray has become the first Scottish senior footballer to come out as gay.
Murray, who is a striker for the Lowland League’s Gala Fairydean Rovers, praised his teammates for their support and said he hopes his announcement “helps other struggling players”.
He becomes the first openly gay player in Scottish football since Justin Fashanu, who played for Airdrie and Hearts in the 1990s, and wants to be a role model for others, just like Blackpool’s Jake Daniels and Scottish referees Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson .
“I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders now,” Murray said.
“The reason I decided to do this now is two-fold. Firstly, I was on vacation recently during a Pride event and I’ve always been so locked up to never go to these things, but I loved that.
“The vibe was great and everyone was just free and happy and it was great to just be me.
“I also want to help other players who are struggling with this because it’s not easy for men, especially footballers.”
Murray, 30, had spells with Airdrie and Motherwell during his younger playing years and says he knew he was “different for many years”.
“It can be difficult and you can feel very alone,” he added. “But with other people in the game coming out, it’s amazing.”
Gala Fairydean Rovers play in the Lowland League, one step below League Two. Murray holds the club record for goals scored in a single season.
“The guys at the club have been so supportive of me,” he said. “I have a really strong bond with everyone at the club and I’ve been blown away by the support.
“Before you go out you think people are going to turn on you and you think the worst. It’s been great the support I’ve had.
“I’ve done a lot of research and always keep an eye on the media to see if there are support platforms for young gay footballers, but there aren’t.
“I would really like to look into and see what support can be given to other players to inspire them.
“In recent years Jake Daniels has come out and then Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson, who are both umpires, have come out as well.
“Of course there are gay footballers in our game and I’ve had a lot of players contact me saying they’ve read my message and can’t believe how strong I am in doing that.”
He added: “Let’s hope that the SFA [Scottish Football Association] can work with other leagues and partners and review support and determine how we help other players.
“This support is badly needed in men’s football.
“Women’s football is another ball game. They’re completely diverse and open and that’s something men’s football should aspire to be.”
Following Murray’s announcement, Gala Fairydean Rovers chairman Ryan Cass said: “Everyone at the club fully supports Zander and we are delighted for him that he feels comfortable stepping out.
“Zander has shown great bravery and he has the full support of the club and I am sure he will get the support he deserves from the whole football family in Scotland.”
Blackpool’s Jake Daniels became the UK’s first active male professional footballer to come out as gay earlier this year and told Sky Sports his story. Read here.