A Japanese soccer player, currently playing in the German league, has come out as gay.
Shiho Shimoyamada, 24, has also encouraged other LGBTI athletes to do the same ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The SV Meppen star, a team in the second tier of the German Bundesliga, spoke to Pride House Tokyo.
‘You will find a lot of company, absolutely,’ she said, in a message to closeted athletes.
‘Once you share your feelings with the company you keep, sports will become even more fun.’
Soccer player Shiho Shimoyamada comes out as gay
The 24-year-old athlete said her teammates helped her come to terms with her sexual identity.
‘They helped me to realize that I don’t have to change,’ she said.
‘And it’s [also] OK to stay with the team and love the person I love. I felt relieved’
She said her SV Meppen teammates were very understanding of LGBTI people.
‘They don’t perceive a LGBT player as special,’ Shimoyamada said.
‘I can play just as a soccer player here, and I feel comfortable in such a relationship.’
‘Let’s take a step forward together’
Shimoyamada also featured in a Pride House Tokyo video.
She said: ‘I somewhat knew in high school that I was not attracted to men.
‘It wasn’t until I met other soccer teammates who were not straight that I finally realized I could be who I was.
‘You may not see it now but you have many LGBTI friends around you right now.’
‘For those struggling, let’s take a step forward together.’
Japan is likely to win a medal at the 2020 Olympics.
Their best Olympics showing was in London 2012, in which they won a silver medal in the women’s soccer.
A record 56 out LGBT athletes competed at the 2016 Rio Games.