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Footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger Announces That He Is Gay

1. German international footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced that he is gay in an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit.

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In the process the former German international has become by far the most prominent football player to announce that he is gay.

Hitzlsperger had a successful career in England with Aston Villa and in his homeland with Stuttgart, before returning to Britain for short stints at West Ham and Everton.

He retired following the 2012-13 season, having won 52 caps for his country and having played at the World Cup and European Championships.

2. Hitzlsperger told Die Ziet that he made the statement because he wants to “advance the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes”.

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He said it is only in recent years that it “dawned on me that I would rather live with a man” and this followed a “a long and difficult process”.

“In England, Germany or Italy homosexuality is not a serious issue, not in the changing room at any rate,” he told the weekly newspaper. “I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with twenty young men and listen to jokes about gays.”

“You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are a bit funny and not too insulting.”

3. Hitzlsperger was previously engaged to his long-term girlfriend Inga.

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The 31-year old broke off their relationship just a month before they were due to get married in 2007.

Today he says it made sense to talk about his sexuality at the end of his career.

“Being gay is a topic that is ignored in football and not a serious topic in the changing room,” he explains. “Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are.”

4. He follows the lead of ex-Leeds United player Robbie Rogers, who quit the sport and announced he was gay in early 2013.

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Rogers, a USA international, has since come out of retirement and is playing for LA Galaxy in the MLS.

At the time he told the Guardian that he felt the need to stop playing before talking about his sexuality: “In football it’s obviously impossible to come out – because no-one has done it. No one. It’s crazy and sad. I thought: ‘Why don’t I step away and deal with this and my family and be happy?’ Imagine going to training every day and being in that spotlight? It’s been a bit of a circus anyway – but that would have been crazy.”

5. But there is still no publicly gay footballer who plays in one of the world’s top leagues.

British football has been badly affected by the legacy of Justin Fashanu, who announced he was gay in 1990 and found himself ostracised by parts of his family and some players.

And only yesterday Michael Johnson stood down from his role on a Football Association equality panel after footage emerged of him saying “homosexuality is detestable unto the Lord”.

Hitzlsperger is hoping that his decision will lead to change in the future.

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