Tributes have poured in after former Australian footballer Stephen Laybutt was found dead. The 46-year-old’s body was discovered in bushland near Cabarita beach in New South Wales on Sunday, January 14.
Laybutt is reported to have been visiting friends in Casuarina in the days leading up to his death, but couldn’t be located or contacted on the Saturday morning and was reported missing. Authorities carried out “an extensive search”, before finding the man’s remains at around 7pm on Sunday evening.
“The circumstances surrounding his death are not being treated as suspicious,” police confirmed.
Throughout his career, Stephen Laybutt recorded 18 caps for the Australian national team, also known as the Socceroos, including at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The defender also played professionally for several clubs including the Brisbane Strikers, Dutch giants Feyenoord, Belgium’s Gent and the Newcastle Jets.
Stephen Laybutt, rest in peace…
— Feyenoord Rotterdam (@Feyenoord) January 15, 2024
He came out publicly as gay after he retired in 2008 due to an Achilles tendon injury. Although he admitted to initially struggling with this sexuality, Laybuttsaid life became better after he met his partner Michael Lutteral in 2010.
We’re deeply saddened by the passing of Socceroo Stephen Laybutt. Stephen came out after his playing career, speaking publicly in an interview with journo Andrew Webster in 2021 in an article that highlighted his empathy & character.
— Pride Football Australia (@PrideFootballOz) January 16, 2024
Football Australia Chief Executive James Johnson led the tributes, saying Laybutt’s “contributions to the Socceroos, especially during the OFC Nations Cup victories and the Sydney 2000 Olympics, have left a lasting legacy in our football community.”
Johnson continued, “We remember Stephen not just for his accomplishments on the field but also for his character and the positive influence he had on those around him. He will forever be remembered as part of the Socceroos family and will be deeply missed.”
Anter Isaac, Chair of Football Australia, similarly stated, “The passing of Stephen Laybutt is a profound loss for the football community in Australia and beyond. Stephen represented the very best of Australian football – talent, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence.”
Everyone at Football Australia and the Socceroos are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Socceroo cap no. 444, Stephen Laybutt.
— Subway Socceroos (@Socceroos) January 15, 2024
Former Socceroo Craig Foster remembered the centre-back as “A gentle, kind person and a highly talented player”.
One fan wrote that they were “genuinely shocked” by the news, adding that they were “deeply saddened to hear of his loss.”
Another said, “So devastated to learn of Stephen Laybutt’s passing. At Parra Power, he would always make a point to come and speak to us no names after the games”.
Terrible news for the football community and particularly the @Socceroos fraternity who have lost a brother.
A gentle, kind person and a highly talented player of course.
My love and deepest condolences to Stephen’s loved ones ❤️ https://t.co/GTCgMSCcGX
— Craig Foster (@Craig_Foster) January 15, 2024
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