Minister for Sport and Equalities Helen Grant has praised former West Ham and German international Thomas Hitzlsperger for announcing that he’s gay.
He added: “I’ve never been ashamed of the way I am”.
Minister for Sport and Equalities Helen Grant said to PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s great news that Thomas Hitzlsperger has had the courage to come out today. While we have made great progress in shifting attitudes towards the gay community, there are still many people who have hidden or who are still hiding their sexuality, through fear of homophobia. There is still more we can all do to help tackle homophobia in sport.”
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The Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) welcomed Hitzlsperger’s comments as an encouraging development.
GFSN Chair Chris Basiurski said: ”We really welcome this news, its shows that we are moving one step closer to creating that atmosphere in football where players at all levels would be able to come out should they want to, safely and free from discrimination.
“We hope that one day current players would feel able to come out and that eventually a player’s sexual orientation not be a news story, but for now we wish Thomas Hitzlesperger well.”
The fact that Hitzlsperger’s announcement came after he had already retired from football shows the sport still has a long way to go.
Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to come out, in 1990, before he took his own life eight years later, aged 37.
There are currently no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues.