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Soccer: Ex-Lazio midfielder Hitzlsperger comes out

Arguably highest profile footballer to say he's gay

08 January, 16:01
Soccer: Ex-Lazio midfielder Hitzlsperger comes out (ANSA) - Berlin, January 8 - Former Germany and Lazio midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger has become arguably the highest-profile soccer player ever to come out as gay.

"I'm coming out about my homosexuality because I want to advance the debate about homosexuality among professional sports people," the 31-year-old told German newspaper Die Zeit. Hitzlsperger retired last year after a series of injury troubles.

He played six Serie A games for Lazio during a brief stint in Rome in 2010. He also played for Aston Villa, Stuttgart, West Ham United, Wolfsburg, Everton and made 52 appearances for the German national team. He told Die Zeit that homosexuality was not a subject that could be easily talked about in football in Italy, Germany and England.

"In England, Germany and Italy the issue of homosexuality is not taken seriously, especially not in the locker room," Hitzlsperger said. Former Lazio captain Tommaso Rocchi said Hitzlsperger never gave any hint of not being straight. "I didn't know. This announcement is a surprise to me," Rocchi told ANSA. "I never realised.

"Everyone is free to do what they think right. There were never any problems with him.

"I think he's at peace with himself. Everyone is free to be what they feel". There have only been a few previous examples of footballers coming out.

In 1990 former England Under-21 international Justin Fashanu became the first professional footballer in Britain to reveal he was gay. He committed suicide in 1998, aged 37.

Last year former United States international Robbie Rogers came out.