Footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger has come out as gay.
The former Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham soccer player said he wants to ‘further the debate about homosexuality among sports professionals’.
Hitzlsperger, who represented Germany 52 times, is the highest profile footballer to reveal his sexuality.
Speaking to German paper Die Zeit, he said: ‘It’s been a long and difficult process [of becoming aware of being gay].
‘Only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living together with a man.’
Hitzlsperger said in England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual ‘is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room.’
‘I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays,’ he added.
‘You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.’
‘Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are intrinsically linked, that doesn't fit the cliché: “gays are soft”.’
But while he may have come out, Hitzlsperger will not be representing LGBT people on the pitch. He retired in September last year.