Berlin - The football world has been quick to rally round Thomas Hitzlsperger,
who has become the first German international to "come out" as a
Hitzlsperger's announcement in the magazine Die Zeit has been heralded by players across Europe as an important step forward.
on a day when Paris Saint Germain's Brazilian star Alex walked into a
row over homophobia for comments he made in a TV documentary, the
question of homosexuality in sport has suddenly become a major talking
Hitzlsperger's revelations were greeted by fellow-German
international Lukas Podolski of Arsenal as "an important sign of our
In an interview to be published in Thursday's edition of
Die Zeit, Hitzlsperger, 31, revealed: "I am declaring my homosexuality
because I want the question of homosexuality in the world of
professional sport to be out in the open."
But he admitted that reaching the agonising decision to come out had been "a long and difficult process".
capped 52 times by Germany between 2004 and 2010, added: "It is only in
recent years I have come to realise I preferred living with a man."
midfielder, who hung up his boots at the end of last season, plied his
trade in Germany, England and Italy with Aston Villa, Everton, Wolfsburg
and Lazio among others before retiring last year.
said he had decided to "come out" because now was "a good time" for him
and because he wanted to promote the discussion of homosexuality in
"I've never been ashamed of the way I am," he
added, although it had not always been easy to cope with some of the
comments dished out.
"In England, Germany or Italy, homosexuality is not taken seriously as an issue, at least not in the dressing room."
Podolski tweeted: "Brave and right decision. Respect, Thomas Hitzlsperger. His outing is a important sign of our time."
the world of football, the only previous big name to admit openly to
homosexuality was former Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin
Fashanu in 1990. He committed suicide eight years later aged 37.
were also messages of support for Hitzlsperger on Twitter from his
former club Aston Villa as well as from ex-England captain Gary Lineker.
said: "Everyone who knows Thomas from his time here at Villa has great
respect for him, not only as the fine player he was but also as a man.
statement today is a straightforward statement and, along with our
support as a club, we hope that everyone involved in the game extends to
him their support as well."
Lineker tweeted: "Congratulations to
Thomas Hitzlsperger on bravely being the first player to have played in
the PL to 'come out'."
Controversial QPR midfielder Joey Barton also took to Twitter to add his comments in typically forthright fashion.
QPR midfielder tweeted: "Thomas Hitzlsperger has shown a lot of courage
today. Sad times when people have to wait till they retire from their
chosen profession before they feel other people will judge them solely
on who the human being is. Shame on all of us as a society."
also added further tweets. "But it is understandable when brainwashed,
religious zealots still believe in a fictional book written over 2000
"To be religious extremist, you must first be extremely
dumb in my opinion. Alex from PSG simply confirms my theory with his
That was a reference to comments by the PSG
defender, a born-again Christian who sparked a row when he revealed his
faith-based disapproval of homosexuality in a documentary on religion in
football by French pay TV company Canal+.
Defending his stance, he said: "God wouldn't have created Adam and Eve but Adam and Yves."
Meanwhile,Italy's Gay Center backed Hitzlsperger.
there gay footballers in Italy? We believe so. They should do the same
as Hitzlsperger and come out publicly," said a statement by the
The statement added: "We live in a country that
restricts civil rights by failing to recognise, for example, gay
marriage, a country where dramatic events such as suicides, assaults and
murders are a common occurrence.
"Top athletes coming out would relay a positive message, especially to young people and help to combat homophobia."