• Germany's news in English
 
Hitzlsperger: 'Why I decided to come out'
Thomas Hitzlsperger. Photo: DPA

Hitzlsperger: 'Why I decided to come out'

Published: 08 Jan 2014 12:36 GMT+01:00

Hitzlsperger, who earned more than 50 caps for Germany before retiring in September due to a knee injury, said in an interview with newspaper Die Zeit, for which he writes a column, that his awareness of being gay was "a long and difficult process".

"It is only in recent years I have come to realize I preferred living with a man," he said.

And Hitzlsperger, nicknamed "the hammer" in his playing days, said he had decided to speak out to spark a public debate about homosexuality among professional sportsmen.

“The subject remains stuck in clichés,” he said. “Professional sportsmen appear perfect ‘disciplined’, ‘hard’, ‘manly’. Homosexuals on the other hand are seen as ‘bitchy’, ‘soft’, ‘sensitive’.”

“Homosexuality and masculinity are not contradictory,” he said.

He added: “What has annoyed me is that those who know least about the subject speak the most about it.”

Hitzlsperger also said his retirement prompted the decision to reveal he was gay as it meant he now had time for the “commitment”.

“The Olympic Games in Sochi are approaching and I think it needs critical voices who will speak out against the campaigns run by several governments against homosexuals,” he said.

The former Aston Villa player described how growing up in rural Catholic Bavaria meant homosexuality was seen as “unnatural” and he only became aware of his homosexuality when he grew up.

He lived with his girlfriend for several years and said they were happy together. The ex-Stuttgart player planned to marry but the relationship ended after eight years six years ago “without his partner knowing about his feelings for men”.

“Why should I be ashamed? I was never ashamed of the way I am,” he said in the interview, adding he had not lied about his sexuality; rather that he had kept it quiet.

When his girlfriend moved out he lived alone, but the only comments that sparked from his teammates was why he had not found someone new.

The former central midfielder spoke with German head coach Joachim Löw and team manager Oliver Bierhoff before coming out. 

Both men responded “positively”, he said.

The revelations have prompted lots of praise for Hitzlesperger on Twitter.

The 31-year-old midfielder, who started his career at Bayern Munich before heading to the English Premier League to join Aston Villa in 2000, was widely praised for his decision to come out.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said: "We live in a country where no-one should be afraid to state their sexuality for fear of intolerance.

Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg tweeted his praise to Hitzlsperger as did former England striker turned television presenter Gary Lineker.

Merkel said in September 2012 that gay footballers should “have nothing to fear”, but the German football establishment has been far less encouraging.

In September last year goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn warned gay footballers in Germany to keep their sexuality a secret, while in July the German Football Association (DFB) told gay players to come out - but quietly.

A pamphlet from the DFB German football association advised gay players to wait until the end of the season.

German striker Mario Gomez has also said homosexual players should not be afraid to declare their sexuality, but his former teammate at Bayern Munich Philipp Lahm and national team captain has advised against it, saying they would be “exposed to abusive elements”.

Hitzlsperger's revelation comes on the same day as a French TV channel is due to broadcast an interview with Brazilian player Alex, in which he claims "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves.

READ MORE: German minister comes out as lesbian

 

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Tom Bristow (tom.bristow@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Shocked fishermen hook a shell of a catch
Locals enjoy the normally tranquil Seeburger See

Shocked fishermen hook a shell of a catch

A couple of friends who went for a quiet spot of fishing on Lake Seeburg in Lower Saxony on Monday got the fright of their life when they pulled up their net to find an artillery shell inside. READ  

10 facts to celebrate Leipzig's 1,000th birthday
Leipzig's impressive skyline. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 facts to celebrate Leipzig's 1,000th birthday

This weekend the city of Leipzig is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary, since it was first mentioned by the chronicler Thietmar of Merseburg in 1015. The Local gives some insight into one of Germany's most vibrant cities. READ  

Police tighten borders ahead of German G7
File photo: DPA

Police tighten borders ahead of German G7

German authorities have reintroduced border controls two weeks before the leaders of the G7 economies gather in Elmau, southern Bavaria. READ  

North Germany feels pain of Russia sanctions
Photo: DPA file photo

North Germany feels pain of Russia sanctions

Schleswig Holstein's exports to Russia have dropped by 31 percent, state finance minister Reinhard Meyer said in comments reported by the Hamburger Abendblatt on Tuesday. READ  

German twins die fighting for Isis in Iraq
The twin brothers are both reported to have died in suicide attacks. Photo: Dabiq magazine

German twins die fighting for Isis in Iraq

German twins from Castrop-Rauxel in North Rhine-Westphalia have died fighting for the Islamist group Isis in Iraq, the militia's official magazine reported in its latest publication. READ  

Toilet theft at interior ministry causes a stink
Photo: DPA

Toilet theft at interior ministry causes a stink

Thieves have stolen toilet seats, taps and loo paper holders from the new interior ministry building in Berlin, making it difficult for mandarins to get comfortable in their new surroundings. READ  

Berlin jumps ahead on new rent control law
Blocks of flats in the Berlin district of Wedding. Photo: DPA

Berlin jumps ahead on new rent control law

Berlin is to be the only state in Germany to introduce rent controls immediately after the law allowing them comes into effect on June 1st. READ  

Ireland vote builds gay marriage momentum
Photo: DPA

Ireland vote builds gay marriage momentum

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is feeling the pressure from opposition MPs, its own gay supporters and its Social Democratic Party (SPD) allies to look again at allowing gay marriage after Ireland's popular "yes" vote on Friday. READ  

Amazon 'paying local tax on sales in Germany'
Photo: Uli Deck/dpa

Amazon 'paying local tax on sales in Germany'

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, online retailer Amazon has started paying tax on profits from its sales to German customers in Germany instead of in Luxembourg READ  

German woman, 65, has quadruplets
Photo: DPA

German woman, 65, has quadruplets

A 65-year-old German woman, who already has 13 children, has given birth to quadruplets after undergoing an artificial insemination procedure in Ukraine. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Why the train strike is bad for passengers and workers
National
Meet Germany's Eurovision hope
Business & Money
Is 2015 a new moment for jobsharing?
Features
How the LGBT rights movement was born in Germany
National
Why you don't make bomb jokes at the airport
National
Why Germany needs a little less tipple
National
Who Germans and Americans trust... and don't
Politics
What the UK election means for Germany
National
Why Germany is great for mums
Features
The Germans with GI dads
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,663
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd