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Former World Cup player from Germany Thomas Hitzlsperger comes out as gay

“I am expressing my sexuality because I want to promote the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes ... I was never ashamed of how I am."
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Joerg SarbachThomas Hitzlsperger

Joerg Sarbach
Thomas Hitzlsperger

BERLIN — A former World Cup player from Germany became the biggest name in soccer to come out as gay, saying he wants to break down the stigma of homosexuality in sports.

Thomas Hitzlsperger, a former midfielder who played in England’s Premier League and in Germany, made the announcement Wednesday in a German newspaper four months after his retirement from the game.

“I am expressing my sexuality because I want to promote the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes,” Hitzlsperger told Die Zeit.

The 31-year-old Hitzlsperger said he felt now was the right time to approach a subject he felt was “simply ignored.”

“Only in the last few years did it dawn on me that I would rather live with a man,” said Hitzlsperger, the first German player to announce he is gay.

Hitzlsperger represented Germany at the 2006 World Cup, and also played for clubs in England, Italy and Germany, finishing his career last year at Liverpool-based Everton in the Premier League.

“Homosexuality is not a serious issue in England, Germany or Italy, not in the dressing room in any case,” said Hitzlsperger, who made 52 appearances for Germany’s national team from 2004-11.

He said he resented the contradiction of soccer being a sport where “fighting, passion and the will to win are intrinsically linked,” compared to the stereotype that “gays are sissies.”

“I was never ashamed of how I am,” said Hitzlsperger, adding that the behavior of some of his teammates was sometimes hard to take.

“Think about it. There are 20 young men sitting around a table drinking. You let most of it go, as long as the jokes are halfway funny and the rubbish about homosexuals is not hugely offensive,” he said.

Hitzlsperger is the most high profile soccer player, active or retired, to come out as gay.

Last February, American player Robbie Rogers declared he was gay before announcing his retirement. He returned to action after an overwhelmingly positive reaction to his declaration.

Germany forward Lukas Podolski welcomed Hitzlsperger’s announcement.

“Brave and right decision. Respect, Thomas Hitzlsperger. His outing is a important sign in our time,” Podolski wrote on Twitter.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert welcomed Hitzlsperger’s announcement on behalf of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“We live in a country where nobody should be afraid of acknowledging their sexuality for fear of intolerance. And I think that as a country, as a society, we’ve made enormous progress in this area,” Seibert said. “We judge footballers by whether they conduct themselves well and with dignity on and off the pitch, and I believe both are true for Mr. Hitzlsperger.”

Former German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, who is openly gay, and former German soccer federation president Theo Zwanziger both praised Hitzlsperger for his “courage” in coming out.

Hitzlsperger played for Bayern Munich’s youth teams before switching to English club Aston Villa in 2001. He later played for Stuttgart, Italian club Lazio, Wolfsburg and then Everton.

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40 more reader comments:

  1. Not surprised.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 3:55pm
  2. Who cares.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 3:56pm
  3. He deserves all our support!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 3:57pm
  4. Of course he deserves! :)

    Replied on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:18pm
  5. I care! Good for him! Brave man!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 3:59pm
  6. A Brave man would have come out during his career and not afterwards and has nothing really to lose. Also the brave ones are the average person or kid getting beat up, disowned, or discriminated by coming out when it costs them their lives or worse. A soldier is brave, a fireman is brave, coming out and risking everything in brave. Coming to a party when everything has been done and the risk is minimal is not Brave its an attempt to clear up their consciousness and get support from a community they ignored when it needed their support the most.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:47pm
  7. Some people are NEVER satisfied!! GROW UP!!

    Replied on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:24pm
  8. What so special, anothet gay man???

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:00pm
  9. Wow! We can meet…

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:01pm
  10. y not!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:02pm
  11. Out and Proud..the only way to be!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:08pm
  12. Good for him! You have all my support!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:10pm
  13. Good for him.

    Though, we’ll break down more barriers in sports if/when more CURRENT athletes start coming out, rather than former.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:10pm
  14. Good for him..Congrats to him.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:11pm
  15. Bravo!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:12pm
  16. Congrats!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:21pm
  17. I applaud his courage and am thankful for the role model he will provide for the many children/adults yet to come to terms

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:21pm
  18. I always new I would find my man in the world cup in germany

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:29pm
  19. I think that we should all care and support all those who have the courage to be unapologetically open with who they are. For those who express “who cares”, I know that it carries no malicious intent nor sentiment (and believe me I wish that we were at that point in our society), but the truth is that awareness to the fact that our sexual preference doesn’t have any relevance with one’s character or who they are. Far too many people, especially kids, are bullied into feeling that they are not accepted by society and either take their own lives or someone else takes it away from them. Having people come out and be open with the world, shows those most vulnerable and in pain with being forced to live a lie, that being gay is perfectly fine and normal. That’s why I think it is still important for people to be brave and come out.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:30pm
  20. YAY!!! :)

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:38pm
  21. oh you are retired now and have nothing to lose, well come on out and enjoy all the progress the rest of us have thad to deal with discrimination, hate, violence, disownment and making it possible for you to stay closeted and with your mouth shut all those years when you were making money and had your career and did not want to risk losing that by coming out. Had you come out during your career I would say Bravo and congratulations and it was a brave move. Now all I can say is thanks for staying in the closet when it would really have made a difference if you had come out at the top of your career.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:44pm
  22. shut the fuck up please. no one gives a fuck about your opinoin

    Replied on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:35pm
  23. I commend him. However, I don’t ever see the headline “blah blah came out as straight today.” Equality means just that. It’s sad that this matters to so many people. Guess what?! I’m gay too!! Yep big fat lesbian. Where’s my national headline?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:53pm
  24. Endlich mal was gutes aus Deutschland

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:02pm
  25. Hammer Entlich Eine Fusbaler Hat Mut

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:06pm
  26. And it is always FORMER players

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:08pm
  27. Good for him :)

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:09pm
  28. Yeahhh I am so happy he had the courage and to be truly himself and not live a lie. Another mark in LGBT book.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:16pm
  29. amazing it takes great courage to come out despite the risks GOD bless you and be with you love u are the best

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:24pm
  30. Well done,gorgeous !

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:25pm
  31. Happy and proud for Him.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:34pm
  32. Good on him.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:58pm
  33. Bravoooo. I LOVEEEEE ❤️!❤️!❤️!❤️!❤️!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:14pm
  34. Thanks! Thomas

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:22pm
  35. I wish him the very best

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:24pm
  36. Fair play to him

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 7:04pm
  37. Too bad he wasn’t comfortable enough while becoming a champion.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 7:49pm
  38. Another one?!?! Kewl ;)

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 10:28pm
  39. I don’t think it’s that he wasn’t comfortable enough to come out while becoming a champion, it’s the ass holes he would have to deal with

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 1:33am
  40. They all deserve our support…each and every person that publically comes out or even those that are hesitant to take that step…welcome to the community

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 4:17am