Thomas Hitzlsperger becomes highest-profile footballer to reveal he’s gay


Former Premier League midfielder and Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger has revealed he’s gay in an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit.

Hitzlsperger, who spent most of his career at Aston Villa and Stuttgart, is the first former Premier League player and first German footballer to do so. He retired this past September after featuring for Everton in seven games last season.

Talking to Die Zeit, Hitzlsperger said he felt the timing of the announcement was right:

"I’m revealing my homosexuality because I want to promote the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes.

I think it is a good moment for it. With the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, I think we need more critical voices against campaigns of regimes who don’t tolerate homosexuals.”

The 31-year-old’s reveal comes almost a year after American midfielder Robbie Rogers’ announcement before immediately retiring. (Rogers would later change his mind and join the LA Galaxy, becoming the first openly gay player on an American professional team). On record, he is the fourth professional footballer to “come out”

"It has been a long and difficult process [of becoming aware of being gay]. Only in recent years has it dawned on me that I would prefer to live with another man," Hitzlsperger said, who broke off a relationship in 2007 with his longtime girlfriend, one month before their wedding.

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Everton players sport rainbow laces in support of gay rights


Image: EvertonFC.com

Everton FC has become the first Premier League club to embrace a new campaign to kick homophobia out of soccer by sporting rainbow-colored laces, according to the Daily Mail.

Gay rights charity Stonewall and bookmakers Paddy Power joined forces to launch the “Right Behind Gay Footballers” campaign, and have sent out 5,000 sets of the laces to all professional clubs in England, Scotland and Wales.
Everton captain Phil Jagielka and many of his teammates have embraced the idea and will be wearing the new laces for this weekend’s Premier League fixture against West Ham United.

Jagielka told the club’s official website:

For me and the rest of the lads at Everton a player’s sexuality is not important, but their ability on the pitch is.No one should feel that they can’t be themselves – on or off the pitch – so that is why we are supporting this initiative.


Image: EvertonFC.com

The Premier League has left it up to clubs and individuals to decide if they want to back the campaign or not, and have expressed disappointment that they were not approached by the campaign directly.

A Premier League spokesman said:

The underlying message behind this campaign is a good one, indeed we and our clubs have worked hard with government and other stakeholders to ensure the whole equalities agenda is something we fully are aware of and engaged in.

However, we were not consulted about this particular campaign. Had we been involved earlier in the process we could have worked with Stonewall to consider things like boot deals, the use of particular betting partners, and other issues.

There are currently no active openly gay players in the United Kingdom.