Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced that he is gay, becoming the most high-profile soccer player to do so in the process.
Hitzlsperger, a German international who played for his country on 52 occasions, made the reveal during an extensive interview with the country’s newspaper Die Zeit.
“It’s been a long and difficult process [of becoming aware of being gay]. Only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living together with a man,” admitted Hitzlsperger.
The former Aston Villa, Everton, West Ham, and Stuttgart player, who retired from the game in September, took this opportunity to open up about his experiences in soccer locker rooms too, noting that “being a homosexual is no big thing.”
Hitzlsperger remarked, “In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room.”
He did confirm that it wasn’t the best environment to reveal his own personal sexual orientation though, adding, “I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.”
He continued, “Being gay is a topic that is ‘ignored’ in football and not ‘a serious topic in the changing room’. Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are intrinsically linked, that doesn’t fit the cliché: ‘gays are soft’.”
Hitlzsperger had a long and distinguished career across Europe. He honed and crafted his skills with Bayern Munich’s youth team before moving to the English Premier League on a free transfer where he played for Aston Villa.
During his time at Villa Park, Hitzlesperger was nicked The Hammer because of his ferocious left-foot shoot, which soon saw him winning admirers back in his native land and resulted in a move to Stuttgart in the summer of 2005.
At Stuttgart Hitlzsperger won the Bundesliga title in 2005, which earned him a regular place in the German national side, and he went on to represent his country at the 2006 World Cup and 2008 European Championships.
Hitzlsperger’s career began to dwindle as he reached his late 20s, but a series of injuries didn’t stop him from moving on to the likes of Lazio, West Ham United, Vfl Wolfsburg and Everton.
In September 2013 he announced that even though he had received offers from numerous clubs to continue his career, the strain of “many transfers and some injuries” had made him notice that he needed “something else.”
Hitzlesperger revelation comes after LA Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers and diver Tom Daley announced that they were both homosexual over the last 18 months.