On Wednesday, Thomas Hitzlsperger became the most high profile footballer to announce that he is gay.
The former midfielder, who retired last September, played for the likes of Aston Villa, West Ham, Everton, Lazio and Stuttgart in a career spanning twelve years. He also won 52 caps for the German national team, appearing in a World Cup and a European Championship.
Hitzlsperger is now the first former Premier League player and most prominent German star to come out, after revealing his sexuality in an interview with Die Zeit newspaper.
The 31-year-old says he has spoken out because he "wants to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards."
The Guardian provide further translations:
"In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room," he said, before adding: "I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.
"Being gay is topic that is 'ignored' in football and not 'a serious topic in the changing room'. Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are intrinsically linked, that doesn't fit the cliché: 'Gays are soft'".
The man nicknamed "Der Hammer" because of his powerful left foot is only the fourth footballer to go public with his homosexuality. In February 2013, Robbie Rogers came out and immediately retired, before changing his mind and signing up with LA Galaxy to become the first openly gay player on an American professional team.
In 2011, Swedish third division defender Anton Hysen came out in a magazine interview and in 1990, Justin Fashanu — brother of Wimbledon striker John — become the first British footballer to reveal he was gay. He took his own life eight years later.
In his interview, Hitzlsperger said he only realised he was gay in the past few years. In 2007, he split from his childhood sweetheart and long-term girlfriend Inga just one month before they were due to be married.
The former Bundesliga champion's announcement comes on the same day that Paris Saint-Germain defender Alex has been criticized for anti-gay comments made in a French TV program. On the Canal+ documentary Jesus Football Club — which explores the relationship between the beautiful game and religion — the Brazilian said: "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves."
- - - - - - -