A Twitter account, purportedly from a Championship footballer who intended to come out as gay, has been deleted.
The account, which began this month, was followed by almost 50,000 people.
Its first tweet claimed the account holder was a professional footballer who had come out to his family and would “reveal his identity soon”.
But a day before the supposed announcement, the account tweeted: “I thought I was stronger. I was wrong”, before being deleted.
The player would have made history, becoming the first active professional footballer since 1990 to come out as gay while playing in the top four divisions of the English game.
The anonymous Twitter user, known only by their username ‘@FootballerGay’, launched the account by following several leading LGBT organisations and media outlets.
He then put out a tweet stating: “I’m a professional footballer, playing for a club in the [English Football League Championship].
“I will be revealing my identity soon, but I am a proud gay man, hoping to break the mould. I am under the age of 23, and today I came out to my family. Soon, I will come out publicly.”
While some were sceptical and openly questioned the legitimacy of the account, thousands of social media users tweeted their support, including former England striker Gary Lineker.
Days after launching the account, the footballer said his club was aware of his sexuality, and had shown support for his decision to come out publicly.
He tweeted: “It was reassuring for them to be fully aware that performance and consistency is based around individuals that are at peace with themselves and the decision to be open is instrumental in ensuring I can be myself.”
Last week, the user confirmed that on Wednesday 24 July they would announce who they were.
But having promised a news conference and media interviews, the purported footballer said he couldn’t reveal his identity.
After receiving several negative responses, a further message said: “Call me all the names under the sun, belittle me and ridicule me, a lot will, and I can’t change that, but I’m not strong enough to do this.
“Just remember that I’ve got feelings, without coming out I can’t convince anybody otherwise, but this isn’t a hoax. I wouldn’t do that.”
The account owner previously sent the BBC several direct messages detailing their fears.
One said: “A lot of people don’t understand why I’m taking this unorthodox approach, but this is right for me.
“I’ve already had death threats and vile abuse on here, which sadly takes away (at least in part) from the positive messages.”
Another said: “Whilst I know several others within the game who are gay/bi they are too scared to be open about it, some of them go as far as employing girlfriends to keep it secret. I don’t want to do that.
“I want to be able to go anywhere, with anyone, without the fear of being outed by the rag tops [newspapers] or someone with a camera phone.
“I truly believe that I need this to be in the open, which will hopefully make it easier for others to do the same.”
Justin Fashanu remains the only male British player to come out publicly while playing professionally. He came out in 1990 and took his own life eight years later.