“I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards,” said the midfielder.
“It’s been a long and difficult process [of becoming aware of being gay]. Only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living together with a man,” he added.
During his career, Hitzlsperger represented Germany 52 times, played in a World Cup and a European Championship and won the Bundesliga championship with Stuttgart in the 2009/10 season.
The 31 year-old retired last September while playing for Everton after playing for Lazio in the Italian Serie A and the Premier League clubs of Aston Villa and West Ham.
“In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room,” he said, before adding: “I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.
“Being gay is a topic that is ‘ignored’ in football and not ‘a serious topic in the changing room’. Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are intrinsically linked, that doesn’t fit the cliché: ‘gays are soft’, ” he explained.
Reactions to the announcement
Hitzlsperger’s announcement has been followed by several messages of support, including the ones sent by his former Germany teammate Loukas Podolski, the English European Parliament member Phil Bennion and the former English footballer Gary Lineker.
Thomas Hitzlsperger becomes the fourth footballer to publicly reveal his homosexuality and the first since Robbie Rogers’ announcement in 2013.
Dirk Brüllau speaker of the Fare member organisation Queer Football Fan Clubs said:
“Thomas Hitzlsperger’s decision to come out of the closet only after his retirement, has probably arisen from uncertainties as to how the world would react. As a network of gay and lesbian fan clubs and a through our close connection to the fan scenes we can say that an openly gay player would have to fear far less negative reactions from supporters than people widely think. It’s more important to know he scores goals than his sexuality.“
Brave and right decision. Respect, Thomas Hitzlsperger. His outing is a important sign in our time. pic.twitter.com/c69Oml2Ocp
— Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10) January 8, 2014
— PhilBennionMEP (@PhilBennionMEP) January 8, 2014
Congratulations to Thomas Hitzlsperger, a brave decision that will hopefully inspire others! http://t.co/1Ac57XO5Ad
— Umbro (@umbro) January 8, 2014
— BUNDESLIGA (@bundesliga_de) January 8, 2014
De John Blankenstein Foundation feliciteert Thomas Hitzlsperger met zijn stap en hoopt dat dit meer voetballers aanspoort tot openheid.
— Blankenstein (@Official_JBF) January 8, 2014
Read the Die Zeit interview here
Thomas Hitzlsperger reveals he is gay and says homosexuality is a topic ‘ignored’ in football http://t.co/Ck8HBDyZet
— Villa News (@VillaNewsOnly) January 8, 2014