First German footballer comes out as gay
Reposted from The Local: http://www.thelocal.de/20140108/first-german-footballer-comes-out-as-gay-thomas-hitzlsperger
Former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger has revealed he is gay, making him the first prominent footballer in the country to come out.
Hitzlsperger, who earned more than 50 caps for Germany before retiring in September due to a knee injury, said in an interview with Die Zeit that his awareness of being gay was "a long and difficult process".
"It is only in recent years I have come to realize I preferred living with a man," he said.
The 31-year-old midfielder started his career at Bayern Munich before heading to the English Premier League to join Aston Villa in 2000.
He said in the interview he felt that it was right for him to come out at the end of his career but added he had "never been ashamed" of his sexuality.
In September last year goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn warned gay footballers in Germany to keep their sexuality a secret, while in July the German Football Association (DFB) told gay players to come out - but quietly. A pamphlet from the DFB advised gay players to wait until the end of the season.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has also got involved in the debate, telling gay footballers in September 2012 that they should “have nothing to fear”.
German striker Mario Gomez has also said homosexual players should not be afraid to declare their sexuality but his former teammate at Bayern Munich Philipp Lahm has advised against it, stating they would be “exposed to abusive elements”.