Retired German Pro Soccer Player Thomas Hitzlsperger Announces He's Gay
The highest level of professional soccer is one step closer to seeing its first active gay player. Former German international and Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who is retired, came out as gay this week in an interview with German magazine Die Zeit.
The Munich-born player has represented the German national team in more than 50 appearance, and has played for top-tier clubs in England, Germany, and Italy.
Hitzlsperger told Die Zeit that he came out in hopes to “advance the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes.” When asked why he waiting until stepping away from the game to make his announcement, he simply said that homosexuality “is a topic that is ignored in football and not a serious topic in the changing room.”
The 31-year-old Hitzlsperger went on to say that he was “never ashamed” of his sexuality, but admitted that coming to terms with it was “a long and difficult process” and that “only in recent years has it dawned on me that I would prefer to live with another man.”
Immediately expressing his support for Hitzlsperger via Twitter, fellow German player and Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski tweeted, “Brave and right decision. Respect, Thomas Hitzlsperger. His outing is a important sign in our time.” LGBT rights supporter and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton also praised Hitzlsperger's courage but still expressed frustration that players still do not feel comfortable coming out while active, referring to the current situation as "sad times."