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Former Aston Villa star Thomas Hitzlsperger reveals he is gay

Updated: Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 19:16 | Comments

Thomas Hitzlsperger: 'In England, Germany or Italy, homosexuality is not taken seriously as an issue, at least not in the dressing room.'
Thomas Hitzlsperger: 'In England, Germany or Italy, homosexuality is not taken seriously as an issue, at least not in the dressing room.'

Former Aston Villa, West Ham and Germany international midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced he is gay in a bid to break the taboo of homosexuality in sport.

The 31-year-old, who ended his playing career in September due to persistent injuries, told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper that now was "a good time" for him to reveal his true sexuality.

"I'm coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards," Hitzlsperger said.

The midfielder said he has only realised "in the past few years" that he would "prefer to live together with another man", saying the issue is otherwise taboo inside the dressing room.

"I've never been ashamed of the way I am," he added, although he conceded it has not always been easy to live with some of the comments dished out on the subject.

"Just picture 20 men sat around a table together drinking - you've just got to let the majority be, just as long as the jokes are halfway funny and the talk about homosexuality doesn't get too insulting," he said.

"In England, Germany or Italy, homosexuality is not taken seriously as an issue, at least not in the dressing room."

Former Leeds and United States winger Robbie Rogers announced he was gay last year.

The full interview with Hitzlsperger, whose last club was Everton, will be published in the Die Zeit newspaper on Thursday.

Hitzlsperger's announcement was met with widespread support but there was a reminder that such acceptance is not universal.

A supportive Joey Barton took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the news in typically uncompromising fashion.

"To be religious extremist, you must first be extremely dumb in my opinion" - Joey Barton

The 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."

However, he also added two further tweets which read: "But it is understandable when brainwashed, religious zealots still believe in a fictional book written over 2000 yrs ago.

"To be religious extremist, you must first be extremely dumb in my opinion.

"Alex from PSG simply confirms my theory with his comments today."

That final tweet from Barton appeared to be a reaction to comments made by Paris St Germain's former Chelsea defender Alex in a documentary to be broadcast on Canal+ television on Wednesday.

According to Le Parisien, Brazilian Alex discusses homosexuality during the programme about sport and religion, saying: "God wouldn't have created Adam and Eve but Adam and Yves."

That followed Michael Johnson's resignation from the Football Association inclusion advisory board on Tuesday after footage emerged showing the former player describing homosexuality as "detestable".

Johnson, 40, made the comments in 2012 while appearing on a BBC1 series called 'The Big Questions', during which he opted not to back the FA anti-homophobia campaign.

His remarks were brought back into focus after his appointment to the FA body, although Johnson said last week that his views had changed.

Former Jamaica international Johnson, who played for Notts County, Derby and Birmingham, said he would continue to back anti-discrimination ventures in football.

He said: "My position on the inclusion advisory board was voluntary and I've decided to use that time to continue my personal development and education within equality."

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