Casey Stoney overwhelmed by response to coming out
England women's captain Casey Stoney says she has been "overwhelmed" by the response after speaking publicly for the first time about being gay.
Arsenal Ladies player Stoney, 31, said she was inspired by Olympic diver Tom Daley, who came out last December.
She said she had received hundreds of supportive messages, including from former England captain Gary Lineker.
Stoney told BBC Sport: "The reaction has been more positive than I ever could have imagined."
Although it was known among the women's football community that Stoney was gay, the defender said she wanted to go public to help those who might be struggling with their sexuality.
All about Casey Stoney
- Born: 13 May 1982, London
- Centre-back at Arsenal Ladies
- Former clubs: Charlton, Chelsea and Lincoln
- England captain with 116 caps
- Considered international retirement after not playing in Euro 2005 in England
- Says she often gets confused on Twitter with former MotoGP rider Casey Stoner
She also revealed that it was a huge "weight off her shoulders" after previously "living a lie".
Stoney, who has 116 England caps and captained Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics, added: "I've been quite emotional. People have been thanking me for doing this but they have nothing to thank me for.
"I'm so glad I did it. In fact, I don't know why I doubted myself for so long and doubted what the public reaction would be like."
Lineker was joined by former Aston Villa and Liverpool forward Stan Collymore and comedian Matt Lucas in praising Stoney's decision.
Former England striker Lineker said: "All the very best to England women's football captain Casey Stoney. Her 'coming out' is another important step forward."
Stoney's admission means she is the most high profile active gay player in England.
Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger came out in January, but the German waited until he had retired from playing.
The Football Association also welcomed Stoney's declaration. Heather Rabbatts, chair of the FA's Inclusion and Advisory Board said: "This is very welcome news.
"Casey has been inspired by Tom Daley to make her announcement and we hope this in turn, inspires others in the same way.
"We're confident the news will be well received and offer our unstinting support to her."
The Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) spokesperson Simon Smith said: "The GFSN sends our best wishes to Casey Stoney on publicly coming out.
"The subject of homophobia in football is rapidly evolving and, while we look forward to the day when a player's sexuality is not an issue, it's encouraging that more and more are feeling comfortable in being open about it."