Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced in Germany that he is gay.
The 31-year-old won 52 caps for Germany. His clubs included West Ham, Everton, Stuttgart and Lazio. His international career and Premiership clubs cv make him the most prominent footballer to reveal publicly his homosexuality. He follows in the footsteps of a very short list of professional players: America's Robbie Rogers, England's Justin Fashanu and Sweden's Anton Hysen complete the new grand total of four.
Hitzlsperger, who retired in September 2013, made the announcement in Die Zeit, saying "I'm coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards." He said it was "a good time" to do so.
The midfielder, nicknamed "The Hammer" at Villa for his powerful left foot shot, explained that he had only realised "in the past few years" that he would "prefer to live together with another man", adding: "I've never been ashamed of the way I am."
It is, of course, deplorable that so few football stars have emerged from the closet. The disincentives for continuing, as opposed to retired players, are, however, obvious. Homophobic abuse from the terraces would be a constant distraction. The dressing room might also be a challenge. As Hitzlsperger remarked: "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."
Anton Hysen, who announced his homosexuality in an interview with a Swedish football magazine in 2011, commented, "It's really going the right way now and it's a good change... for me coming out has been 99% positive and I don't regret anything about my decision. It shouldn't even be an issue that is needed to be discussed in 2014."
Lustralboy is less optimistic than Hysen or Hitzlsperger. A few random comings-out over a period of years will have zero impact on the deep-rooted prejudice of a significant percentage of football followers. It would take the co-ordinated simultaneous coming out of a full eleven man team of Premiership players to begin to change long-entreched attitudes. Okay, guys. Out you come. Then let's see what happens in Holland, Germany, France and Italy. Iran might take a while longer!
Italian footballer Mattia Perin says the sport’s “very conservative” nature makes it “too difficult for someone to declare their sexuality.”
In an interview with Italia 1, the 21-year-old goalkeeper for Serie A club Genoa, said: “Compared to other sports, our one, especially in Italy, is very conservative. “I think it would be too difficult for someone to declare their sexuality at this time.”
Joey Barton acknowledges the need in saying: "Thomas Hitzlsperger has shown a lot of courage today. Sad times when people have to wait till they retire from their chosen profession..... Shame on all of us as a society."
Lustralboy says: "A shame, indeed, Joey, and particularly for the "beatiful game" as other sports including boxing, diving, rugby and even cricket have begun to yield their gay stars. May they continue to do so and, ultimately waken even the Blatters of this world to the need for change.
Join our mailing list
- October 1st, 2016
- August 10th, 2016
- March 19th, 2016
- February 3rd, 2016
- January 16th, 2016
- September 30th, 2015