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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07:    (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Thomas Hitzlsperger of West Ham United celebrates scoring the equalising goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Blackburn Rovers at the Boleyn Ground on May 7, 2011 in London, England.

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. What we're waiting for is a player in one of the major professional leagues who also plays on the national team for World Cup and regional (UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL) championships to come out, the way we wait for one from the NFL, the NBA, MLB, and the NHL. AND, in The Guardian, Hitzlsperger has this to say about Sochi!
"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.

Originally posted to The Wide World of Sports on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 05:57 PM PST.

Also republished by Milk Men And Women, LGBT Kos Community, and LGBT Rights are Human Rights.

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