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”
Brave and right decision. Respect, Thomas Hitzlsperger. His outing is a important sign in our time. pic.twitter.com/c69Oml2Ocp— Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10)
"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.