The German football player Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced that he is gay on Wednesday, making him one of the most high-profile footballers to do so. In an interview with the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, the 31-year-old said he wanted to “take the discussion around professional athletes and homosexuality forward”.
Hitzlsperger, who retired from football last September, said that now would be a good moment to talk about his homosexuality. Becoming aware of his sexual orientation had been a “long and difficult process”, he said, although he had “never been ashamed for the fact that I am like I am.”
Hitzlsperger started his career in the youth team of his local club Bayern Munich. From 2001 to 2005 he was a celebrated midfielder at the English club Aston Villa, after which he stayed for five years at the German first league team Stuttgart. In recent years he played for Lazio Rome, West Ham United and Everton. He represented his national team in 52 international games, scoring six goals.
“Only in the last years I realised that I’d rather spend my life with a man”, said Hitzlsperger. According to him, homosexuality still get’s ignored in football today and he doesn’t personally know of any other gay player.
Gay people still would be labelled as “wimps”, Hitzlsperger continued. Whilst “in England, Italy and Germany” homosexuality would not be a big issue anymore there would still be banter, making it not easy for him and others to come out: “Think about it: There are 20 young men around a table and drink. You let the majority have it’s way, as long as the jokes are tolerably funny and the banter about homosexuality does not get too insulting.”
In a first reaction the german LGBT organization LSVD called the statement “goal of the month”, saying that Hitzlsperger’s coming out was an important step not only for him but the next generation of footballers.