Retired German soccer star Thomas Hitzlsperger has reveal he is gay. According to BBC Sports on Jan. 8, the 31-year-old made the announcement in a German newspaper making him just the fourth soccer player to reveal his homosexuality.
Though Hitzlesperger may not be well known in the United States, he is an international soccer star who came out in order to make a statement for gay athletes in all professional sports. In the newspaper he says:
“I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards.”
The former Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton midfielder said he only realized he was gay in the past few years and felt the timing was good. He added: “I’ve never been ashamed of the way I am.”
He admitted that coming out as gay while still active would’ve been taboo in the dressing room as there are still stigmas of masculinity associated with homosexuality.
“Just picture 20 men sat around a table together drinking – you’ve just got to let the majority be, just as long as the jokes are halfway funny and the talk about homosexuality doesn’t get too insulting.”
Hitzlesperger has represents Germany at the 2006 World Cup, the 2008 European Championship as well as appearing in his first senior international bow in 2004 making him also a well-known international star. As a high profile athlete, he is one of a few athletes who have recently come out.
In 2013, NBA center Jason Collins came out as gay making him the first active athlete in in one of the four major North American sports to come out. Soccer star Robbie Rogers, who came out while retired in 2013, became the first openly gay athlete to play in a game.
Olympic diver Tom Daley, who recently came out as bisexual and Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen have also recently come out.