Bayern Munich and German national football captain Philipp Lahm does not believe society is ready to accept gay professional footballers.

Speaking to Fr-Online.de, Lahm likened football fans to spectators in a gladiatorial arena, and attributed the difficulty in acceptance to the “politically incorrect” nature of the sport.

He said: “The football stadium is rarely politically correct. Football is like gladiatorial combat. I do not think that society is at the point where it can accept gay professional footballers, as is already possible in other areas.”

The 28-year-old also went on to discuss the issues of depression and “burning out” which he said are still, in some cases, regarded as weakness within the football industry.

Lahm has previously been said to have advised professional footballers not to come out if they are gay, whilst dismissing rumours that he is gay himself.

He also went on to downplay alleged rifts between himself and Michael Ballack, his predecessor as German captain, saying: “I think our relationship is made worse in public than it actually is.”

There are currently two openly gay professional footballers in the world: Anton Hysen and David Testo.

Hysen, 21, came out in 2011 and in an interview later that year said: “The worst thing a player can think of is the reactions from the fans, and their family and teammates.

“But if you’re secure in yourself, it shouldn’t matter. If you just focus on football and what you like and what you’re good at, it shouldn’t matter.”

Testo, 30, came out earlier this year saying: “I really do regret not coming out publicly earlier”.

“It’s like carrying around a secret, you know, and carrying around luggage and just never being allowed to be yourself.”