Thomas Hitzlsperger, a former German soccer player, has come out in the newspaper Die Zeit. The announcement comes four months after he retired from the sport following serious injury problems. He is the most prominent soccer player to publicly reveal his homosexuality and said it was “a good time” to do so. “I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards,” he added.
Hitzlsperger has revealed that he only realised he “would prefer to live with a man” in the “past few years”. With this revelation, he hopes the stigma surrounding gay athletes would be talked about and not ignored as it is prone on doing. He also hoped that the stigma surrounding “gays are sissies” will be shot out of the water.
His coming out has certainly meant a great deal to the youths around the world who play sports and have to deal with the stereotype. It is also means a lot to youths who are struggling with the idea of coming out, for whatever reason it may be. Hitzlsperger, who represented Germany in the 2006 World Cup, is one of only four soccer related individuals to come out in the past two decades. Former England Under-21 international Justin Fashanu came out in 1990. Eight years later, he took his own life.
More recently in February 2013, former United States and Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers said he was gay while Swedish footballer Anton Hysen, son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysen, announced his homosexuality in an interview with a Swedish football magazine in 2011.
Hitzlsperger said is decision was reached with much difficulty and though the topic may still be taboo in locker room conversations and drinks with other players, he hopes his revelation will keep the homosexuality at a minimum around other athletes. “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.
The midfielder joined soccer club Aston Villa when he was just a teenager in 2000. He went on to play for Stuttgart, Lazio, West Ham and Wolfsburg, with a short stint at Everton before he retired. Villa has been nothing but supportive of the thirty-one-year-old, writing on Twitter that “Everyone who knows Thomas from his time here at Villa has great respect for him, not only as the fine player he was but also as a man.”
We here at PopWrapped want to send out a big round of applause to Hitzlsperger and wish him a happy retirement and happy relationship. Here’s to hoping we’ll have more people follow his example bravely.