Thomas Hitzlsperger: Former Germany international hopes revelation about his sexuality will 'move the discussion forward'

Hitzlsperger revealed on Wednesday that he is gay and hopes that the widespread acceptance will help to progress the discussion of homosexual sportspeople forward

Thomas Hitzlsperger hopes that revealing he is gay will advance the “discussion” about sexuality in sport.

The former Aston Villa, West Ham, Everton and Germany midfielder, who ended his playing career in September due to persistent injuries, revealed his sexuality on Wednesday.

In an interview which will be published in full in Die Zeit newspaper on Thursday, the 31-year-old said,: "I'm coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards."

Hitzlsperger added that he only realised "in the past few years" that he would "prefer to live together with another man".

"I've never been ashamed of the way I am," he said, although he conceded it has not always been easy to live with comments 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."

Ex-NBA player John Amaechi, who came out in 2007, took to Twitter to welcome Hitzlsperger to "the club".

But Amaechi later told BBC Sport: "Football is toxic and not just for gay people - it's toxic for Asians who want to play the game, it's toxic for women who want to be executives, it's toxic for black people who want to do anything but play.

"But football doesn't see itself like that. It sees itself as this amazing, wonderful, bold and progressive organisation.

"Footballers coming out at the highest level will happen only as the product of a cultural change within the game. It will not be the precursor to cultural change.

"If you want to see people coming out and playing at their best because they're able to be who they are, then the culture of football must change first."

German Football Association (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach told the DFB's website: "Thomas Hitzlsperger was always a role model during his time as a Germany international and I always had the greatest of respect for him, and now that respect has grown even more."

Germany general manager Oliver Bierhoff, one of the first people within the game Hitzlsperger confided in, added: "I welcome this step and we will give him all the support he needs to be able to follow his courageous path."

But former Chelsea defender Alex, now with Paris St Germain, made apparently homophobic comments - though not aimed at Hitzlsperger - in a documentary entitled "Jesus Football Club" which was to be broadcast on Canal+ on Wednesday evening.

Brazilian Alex reportedly discussed homosexuality during the programme about sport and religion, saying: "God wouldn't have created Adam and Eve but Adam and Yves."

Outspoken QPR midfielder Joey Barton, formerly of PSG's rivals Marseille, tweeted in response: "To be religious extremist, you must first be extremely dumb in my opinion.

"Alex from PSG simply confirms my theory with his comments today."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions