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Thomas Hitzlsperger: Was he kept quiet about his sexuality?

Thomas Hitzlsperger, a man with such class and passion for the game, recently came out as the first ever Premier League footballer to admit that he is gay.

Image: Daily Mail

Thomas Hitzlsperger, a man with such class and passion for the game, recently came out as the first ever Premier League footballer to openly admit that he is gay, though he is now not currently playing in the division.

Thomas retired from the game in the summer of 2012 at the age of 31, blaming long term injuries as the reasons for his departure from the game. A senior career that started off at Aston Villa saw him travel across Europe playing the game he loved to play; football. In a career spanning over 12 years, Hitzlesperger not only appeared in the top flight in England, he also played top flight football in Germany, with Stuttgart and in Italy with Lazio. He also notched up 52 caps for Germany over a 6 year international career which saw him score 6 goals.

The timing of his announcement has come as a worry to me. In a quote from the, Hitzlsperger shares that ‘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’.

The fact that he has known for a few years is what shocks me the most about his announcement, as it underlines that he knew he was gay but carried on playing football, while keeping it to himself, whether that was by personal choice or under influence of someone else.

Recently, ex-Leeds United and current LA Galaxy footballer Robbie Rogers openly admitted in a statement on his own website that he was gay, sparking mass interest from the media and a wave of acceptance from the footballing community. Not only has the football community come together to support Robbie Rogers, but he has also been introduced back into the game after briefly retiring from football after his announcement.

What upsets me about Hitzlsperger’s timing of his announcement is the fact that I feel he was ready to come out and openly admit that he was gay, years ago. The reason I feel he left the announcement until after he had retired was to ensure that sponsorship deals were kept in place. This is a bold statement, but a good example of a sponsorship deal that may have come under scrutiny had he announced this during his playing career at Everton, would be ‘Chang beer’, Everton’s multi-million pound shirt sponsor, a company based in Thailand, which is a country with a no tolerance view on homosexuality. The chance of himself personally and Everton as a team losing that sponsorship because of his sexuality would be high. Leaving an everlasting negative legacy on a team that was paying for his trade in the English Premier League.

Another big problem for Hitzlsperger admitting he was gay while still playing would be that Everton aren’t the only club with owners from a country that have a zero tolerance to homosexuality or where owners may have homophobic beliefs due to their religion or culture. There are a growing number of clubs owned by individuals or companies based in Russia, Qatar and other parts of Asia, so he may find his choice of club rather limited. It’s staggering that Hotzlsperger could be branded as a criminal in Qatar – the country that will host the 2022 World Cup.

I am a strong admirer of Hitzlsperger for coming out and being open about his sexuality, to announce it after retirement results in no potential personal abuse from rival fans, or rival players. Though this could have been avoided with strong rules from FIFA and the FA on homophobic chanting or comments in the Barclays Premier League and other European leagues, just like the rules and punishment that are in place in relation to racist chanting and racist comments.

Hitzlsperger and Rogers are two people I admire incredibly for their actions and the way they have presented themselves throughout what must be a tough, but relieving time. I and everyone at Football-Talk, offer our complete support to both and hope they have a successful and prosperous future.

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