• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Hitzlsperger: 'Why I decided to come out'

Tom Bristow · 8 Jan 2014, 12:36

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.

Story continues below…

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 news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Bristow (tom.bristow@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
The 10 worst German cities for students to find digs
Photo: DPA

It's the start of autumn, which means the start of the university year. But along with the excitement comes the stress of finding housing - and in some glamorous locations this can be a nightmare.

German broadcaster sues Turkey over confiscated video
Akif Cagatay Kilic. Photo: DPA

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said Monday it had filed a civil complaint after a Turkish minister's office confiscated a taped video interview with him.

Germany's 'James Bond' goes on trial over tax evasion
Werner Mauss. Photo: DPA.

Germany's former top spy, Werner Mauss, went on trial on Monday accused of hiding millions of euros from authorities.

Germany holds first national 'mermaiding' championship
Photo: DPA

Ariel would be proud.

Gallery
15 pics that prove Germany is totally enchanting in autumn
The Max-Eyth-See in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

As summer fades into a distant memory and you start to begrudge trading Birkenstocks for boots, these pictures may help change your perspective on the new chill in the air.

Left politician who smuggled refugee could lose immunity
Diether Dehm. Photo: DPA.

Die Linke (Left Party) politician Diether Dehm could lose his immunity as an elected official after he admitted to smuggling a refugee into Germany.

Merkel party leader admits sexism is a problem
Jenna Behrends complained that a member of CDU's Berlin government had called her a "big sweet mouse" in front of a large group. Photo: Sophia Kembowski/dpa

A leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party admitted Sunday that it has a problem with sexism in its ranks.

Ethiopia's Bekele nears record in Berlin marathon win
Participants in the Berlin marathon take to the streets on Sunday. Photo:Paul Zinken/dpa

Kenenisa Bekele narrowly missed out on the world record on Sunday as the Ethiopian won the Berlin marathon ahead of former winner Wilson Kipsang.

Europe needs deals to send migrants home: Merkel
Angela Merkal poses with Bulgaria's Prime minister Boyko Borissov (L) and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern (R) in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Europe needs to secure more deals to send rejected migrants home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told counterparts in Vienna.

Germany sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,513
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd