EXCLUSIVE: West Ham captain Gilly Flaherty says she 'felt deceived' after reaching out to Twitter account 'The Gay Footballer'
West Ham's captain Gilly Flaherty says she 'felt deceived' after reaching out to 'The Gay Footballer' over Twitter.
'The Gay Footballer' social media account went viral in the summer when the person behind the Twitter account said they would be the first active male player to come out as gay.
The person claimed to be playing in the second-tier Championship and Flaherty, who has always been an openly gay footballer, said she contacted the person over social media to offer support.
The 28-year-old said: "I remember on Twitter recently there was the case of the person who set up the Twitter account who said they were going to be the first player to come out and I felt deceived really.
"I direct messaged him and he was really believable, he spoke about asking his mates for help and asking team mates and they offered him counselling.
"You'll never know if it's a player or not."
The men's game has notoriously never had an openly gay player and Flaherty says this is down to the older generation.
Flaherty added: "I think with men it's a lot more old school which shouldn't be the case.
"A lot more of the older generation struggle to accept people being gay as that was not acceptable back in the day. Hopefully, sooner rather than later someone within the men's game will come out.
"I've been very fortunate to not experience any homophobia at all. The thing is within women's football there is a lot of gay players.
"Maybe if I was playing in a team full of straight girls or in a league of all straight players I may feel a little outnumbered and the odd one out.
"But the fact there are many gay players within the game means it's seen as the norm. We get quite a lot of LGBTQ+ fans supporting us, it's one community really."
The FA have named this upcoming weekend 'Women's Football Weekend' while the men are on international break.
This has inspired some clubs to make their games a big occasion by hosting the matches in the club's main stadiums.
Liverpool are hosting Everton at Anfield, Reading will play at the Madejski against Bristol City, and Spurs are at hosting Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the first ever North London derby.
Flaherty's Hammers played at the London Stadium against Spurs earlier on in the Women's Super League season, and the defender said women players should be receiving more opportunities like that.
"It's great for the players to play at the stadiums because we deserve that," she said.
"We deserve to be playing in front of 25,000 people, but you want it to be consistent as when you do a one-off [stadium] occasion some players can get lost.
"I spoke to Spurs manager Karen Hills after our match [at the London Stadium] and I said 'for me I'm devastated we've lost but to take the selfish part out of it, look at what we have done for women's football today, it's incredible!'
"The more people you can expose to it the better, but you want that consistency."
West Ham travel to Manchester City this weekend and Flaherty feels confident her side can get a win over last season's WSL runners-up.
"Yeah we can win," she said. "I think we are all looking forward to the game after the international break. It will be good to get straight back into it and I think it's a good time for us to be playing City too.
"Apart from the game last year at the start of the season, every time we've played City we've had a good game and we've made a good account of ourselves."
West Ham vs Man City kicks off at 12.30pm on Sunday and is available to watch on the BBC Red Button.