When pro soccer player Jakub Jankto came out as gay in February, he did it for a lot of the same reasons all LGBTQ athletes do — to stop hiding and to finally be themselves. That even extended to something simple as going out on a date.

“There’s a situation where maybe I want to start dates with guys, where sex becomes a subject, people talked [about] me,” Jankto said in a terrific article by Sid Lowe on ESPN.com.

“I didn’t want to hide. Maybe I’m watching a YouTube video or a TikTok, or messaging someone, or you’re dating guys, and you’re scared someone will see it. You’re hiding your phone. I didn’t want to have to do that, that was a bad feeling. Maybe if I date a guy, I had to hide, too. You weren’t sure he wouldn’t write [about you]. I couldn’t do what I wanted with life, and I decided I had to speak.

“I was like: ‘OK, stop it, I will tell everyone.’” Jankto said. “Maybe it will be hard, but I will tell the world one time and I will feel OK. Now I don’t have to do those things; that’s the difference. I feel good. If I am free, I can go out, relax, listen to music, have fun. You need that.”

The reaction to his coming out 10 months ago has been nothing but positive for Jankto, 27, who plays for top-tier Serie A team Cagliari, based on the Italian island of Sardinia. The article profiles an athlete who came out in a 39-second video that was so powerful that Jankto said it has 30 million views and is the second-most watched video ever in the Czech Republic, his homeland:

“Like everybody else, I have my strengths, I have my weaknesses. I have a family, I have my friends. I have a job, which I have been doing as best as I can for years, with seriousness, professionalism and passion. Like everybody else, I also want to live my life in freedom without fears, without prejudice, without violence, but with love. I am homosexual, and I no longer want to hide myself.”

Since signing with Cagliari this summer, Jankto has fit in well, something his coach Claudio Ranieri stressed. “Jankto is a great player, an artist. He’s strong, runs like a devil, has good feet, great diagonal runs, assists, goals… He’s a golden lad,” Ranieri said before the season. “I looked at his profile and at the dressing room, which is a family; I am convinced there will be no problem whatsoever.”

Like a lot of out athletes, Jankto doesn’t feel a need to be an activist, preferring to make a difference by being visible, even in a sport that has long had homophobic elements.

“Football was, and I think is, a little bit homophobic,” Jankto said. “It is how it is; I can’t change it. There are different mentalities everywhere; in some places, it is more normal. I’m surprised to be the first one saying this, like it’s a new thing; maybe now it doesn’t have to be. It’s 2023, I don’t want footballers to have to explain. I feel good if, gay, hetero, they don’t have to announce [their sexuality] like a new thing, like I had to.”

Jakub Jankto of Cagliari shakes hands with Vanja Milinkovic-Savic of Torino FC following the final whistle of their Serie A match in August.

For now, he’s content to be the best player he can be while also being the best dad for his 4-year-old son, David. The article profiles a man at peace with his decision to come out and in the end that’s all that matters.

You can follow Jankto on Instagram.