German footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger comes out
Former German soccer star Thomas Hitzlsperger has 'come out' using his example to kick “the discussion about homosexuality forward” among sports professionals.
After retiring four months ago, the 31-year-old Hitzlsperger was interviewed by the magazine Die Zeit last week, and his revelation makes him the first German international soccer player to come out.
Until now the only player of such high status to come out was Justin Fashanu in 1990 who committed suicide eight years later aged 37.
“I am declaring my homosexuality because I want the question of homosexuality in the world of professional sport to be out in the open,” he said.
He admitted that arriving at the decision to declare his homosexuality was “a long and difficult process” but felt now was the right time to speak about the subject which he feels is “simply ignored.
Hitzlsperger said he was not certain of his sexual orientation until his career was almost over.
“I finally figured out that I preferred living with a man,” he said.
Although he had considered coming coming out in 2011 he was warned of negative consequences.
“They all said 'don't do it, a big wave will crash on you' but in the end I realised that nobody knows. “There was no precedent, so everybody could only speculate on what would happen.”
Hitzlsperger has received messages of support from around the football community and beyond, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle who is also gay.