Retired World Cup Soccer Player Comes Out
BERLIN -- A former World Cup player from Germany became the biggest name in soccer to come out as gay, saying he wants to break down the stigma of homosexuality in sports.
Thomas Hitzlsperger, a former midfielder who played in England’s Premier League and in Germany, made the announcement Wednesday in a German newspaper four months after his retirement from the game.
"I am expressing my sexuality because I want to promote the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes," Hitzlsperger told Die Zeit.
The 31-year-old Hitzlsperger said he felt now was the right time to approach a subject he felt was "simply ignored."
"Only in the last few years did it dawn on me that I would rather live with a man," said Hitzlsperger, the first German player to announce he is gay.
Hitzlsperger represented Germany at the 2006 World Cup, and also played for clubs in England, Italy and Germany, finishing his career last year at Liverpool-based Everton in the Premier League.
"Homosexuality is not a serious issue in England, Germany or Italy, not in the dressing room in any case," said Hitzlsperger, who made 52 appearances for Germany’s national team from 2004-11.
He said he resented the contradiction of soccer being a sport where "fighting, passion and the will to win are intrinsically linked," compared to the stereotype that "gays are sissies."
"I was never ashamed of how I am," said Hitzlsperger, adding that the behavior of some of his teammates was sometimes hard to take.