SOCCEROOS coach Ange Postecoglou and A-League footballer Thomas Brioch have joined a list of prominent people from around the world who have applauded high-profile German star Thomas Hitzlsperger for publically coming out as gay.
The former English Premier League star made the revelations in an interview with German magazine Die Zeit last Thursday, in which the newly-retired central midfielder said he was motivated to out himself because he wanted “the question of homosexuality in the world of professional sport to be out in the open.”
“Homosexuality is simply ignored in football,” the 32-year-old (pictured above) told the magazine.
“The media … have been interested in the subject for years. It’s just that the players concerned have not dared to declare their inclinations because the world of football still sees itself to some extent as a macho environment.”
Hitzlsperger, who was known was “Der Hammer” throughout his career because of his thunderous left foot shot, admitted that coming to grips with his sexuality had been “a long and difficult process” and cited his experience growing up in regional Bavaria at a time when being gay was widely considered unnatural.
“It is only in recent years I have come to realise I preferred living with a man,” he said.
A-League Brisbane Roar midfielder Thomas Broich, who has played alongside Hitzlsperger in Germany’s youth team, told the Star Observer he could not be more proud of his former teammate.
“This is a big step forward for football,” he said.
“I know Thomas from my time in the under-21 national team and I think it’s great that he is comfortable to come out.”
Ange Postecoglou told the Star Observer that he hoped gay Australian players would also feel comfortable publicly disclosing their sexuality if that is what they wanted to do.
“What you want – in any form of life – particularly in our country, is that people feel comfortable to express themselves in any way they want to,” the World Cup-bound national coach said.
“If there is somebody that feels comfortable enough to do that – I don’t think as a society we’re closed-minded about these things.
“From our perspective, it’s about creating an environment that in our sport, in our nation, allows people to feel comfortable in that space.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron were among the first to congratulate Hitzlsperger, who had played 52 times for the German national team during his career – including the 2006 World Cup and 2008 Euro Cup.
He has also played with German club Bayern Munich, but he is best- remembered for his time with English club Aston Villa. He was most recently with Everton before a number of injuries forced him to retire last September.
Until Hitzlsperger’s announcement, the only known openly-gay footballers were thought to be former USA and Leeds winger Robbie Rogers and lower- league Swedish player Anton Hysén.
In 1990, former Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu became the first big name in the sport to openly admit he was gay, an admission that saw him hounded by tabloid media until he died in 1998.