No, unless you follow professional European soccer more closely than I do (and that would put you above the 90th percentile), you are not likely to have heard of him; I hadn't either. His name is Thomas Hitzlsperger, and, according to Outsports, he
has come out publicly in an interview with Die Zeit, a German newspaper. Hitzlsperger played for his hometown Bayern Munich before graduating to the Premier League's Aston Villa and then Bundesliga's VfB Stuttgart. He played last season for Everton before retiring and is being called the most prominent soccer player to ever come out.There's an excellent piece on him, much longer, in fact, in The Guardian,too.
In his interview with Die Zeit he observed that
He had always resented the contradictions that were set up in the football world in dealing with homosexuality. Professional sport is a hard, competitive sport where "struggle, passion and will to win are inextricably linked." This does not fit the stereotype that many people hold of gay men, namely that "gays are sissies."He said he would sit quietly while other players discussed homosexuality as long as it wasn't too offensive. he also said that he didn't realize he was gay until a couple of years ago. Outsports suggests this is common among elite athletes who are so absorbed in their sports they don't have time to think about it, but I don't think you have to be an elite athlete to do that in the heteronormative society we live in.
What really struck me in this story was this:
European soccer has long been the most homophobic corner of the Western sports world. It makes the NFL look like a local GLAAD chapter [no doubt because of the "You Can Play" campaign]. Robbie Rogers talked about the difference in environment between British soccer, where he felt he needed to retire to come out, and American soccer, where he has been welcomed with open arms.I wonder where they put the NFL and the NBA on this spectrum.
"It's important to face up to nations that discriminate against minorities, sexual or otherwise," he says. "I'm fine with the fact that my story will be mentioned in relation to the Games, because the situation in Russia is something that needs to be talked about. I'm curious to see what will happen. I'm sure that some athletes will make a stand".At any rate, Wilkommen, Thomas, and thank you.