Thomas Hitzlsperger, one of the only professional soccer players to ever come out as gay, has insisted that the sport is beginning to tackle homophobia.
There are currently no openly gay players in the Premier League. Dowever, as part of the Rainbow Laces campaign, which was organized to address and oversee the progression in this area, the 32-year-old ex-Germany international has revealed that he has seen an improvement.
“To see the progress is phenomenal and especially among the players,” Hitzlsperger told BBC News. “Football is just so popular so one’s got to be very careful. If you come out and you’re not really prepared for it then it might be the end of your career.”
The former Everton and Aston Villa midfielder admitted that the real test will come when a player who is actively plying their trade in the sport comes out.
“There is a lot of support going on in the football industry but unless we see someone still actively playing football, we don’t really know what will happen,” he explained.
Hitzlsperger went on to discuss the reaction he got when he came out as gay earlier this year.
“When I came out I got quite a reaction, it was quite intense, a lot of people talked about it. Hopefully, next time someone does exactly the same, we will not talk about it for that long and they can just get on with their career.”
However, it isn’t just about soccer. Hitzlsperger went on to note that the more homosexual athletes from different sports come out, the better it will be.
“Every time you see a professional athlete coming out and talking about their experiences it does help. The game of football is all about diversity, everyone should be part of the game and shouldn’t be excluded because of their skin colour or sexual orientation.”
Meanwhile, despite his assertions that things have improved, Hitzlsperger also declared that he doesn’t think he could have come out as gay when he was playing.
“I did so many interviews and it took up all of my time so it would have been difficult to go back into training as if nothing had happened,” he told the Metro.
He then went on to add, “For me it would have been almost impossible had I still been playing – not because of the fans or the other players, but because of the media.”
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