UK & World News
Footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger Says He Is Gay
Former Aston Villa, West Ham and Germany footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced that he is gay.
The 31-year-old, who also played for Everton and VfB Stuttgart, is the most prominent player to say he is homosexual and the first to have appeared in the English Premier League.
He said he was speaking out in a bid to break the taboo of homosexuality in sport.
The midfielder, who ended his playing career in September due to persistent injuries, told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper that now was "a good time" for him to reveal his true sexuality.
"I'm coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards," he said.
Hitzlsperger said he had only realised "in the past few years" that he would "prefer to live together with another man", saying the issue is otherwise taboo inside the dressing room.
"I've never been ashamed of the way I am," he said.
He conceded it had not always been easy to live with some of the comments dished out on the subject.
"Just picture 20 men sat around a table together drinking - you've just got to let the majority be, just as long as the jokes are halfway funny and the talk about homosexuality doesn't get too insulting," he said.
"In England, Germany or Italy, homosexuality is not taken seriously as an issue, at least not in the dressing room."
The German government and the country's football association (DFB) both praised Hitzlsberger's decision to come out.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "It's good that he talks about something that is of importance for him and that might as well also free him.
"We live in a country in which nobody should be afraid to commit to his sexuality out of intolerant reasons."
DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach said: :"It shows that he is a bright and clever young man. I have always had great respect for him and his message from the interview makes this respect even greater."
Former Leeds and United States winger Robbie Rogers announced he was gay last year.
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