Gay footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger offers his expert advice to newly-out player Jake Daniels
Out, retired footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger has offered Jake Daniels advice after the Blackpool FC star came out as gay.
Hitzlsperger came out in 2014, a year after he retired from a career in football that saw him play for Aston Villa, West Ham, Everton, and the German national team.
Aside from Hitzlsperger, who is German, the only other male pros in English football to have ever come out as gay are Robbie Rogers, an American who played for Leeds United and came out weeks after his retirement; Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990; and now, Jake Daniels.
Daniels opened up about his sexuality on Monday (16 May), becoming the first active gay male pro footballer since Fashanu 32 years ago.
Writing for The Guardian, Hitzlsperger said it is “brilliant” to see Daniels “be so clear” at the age of 17.
“I’m curious to see how his career will develop,” he wrote.
“Because on the one hand he wants to be the best footballer possible, but on the other he wants to be a role model for the LGBTQ community and finding that balance is not going to be easy.
“Hopefully, being open with everyone will make him an even better player. No secrets, nobody talking behind his back.”
— Thomas Hitzlsperger (@ThomasHitz) May 16, 2022
The football veteran warned Daniels of the inevitable discrimination that he will face as a result of coming out.
Hitzlsperger previously told the BBC about the homophobia that he had faced himself after coming out, although he said that he is “confident enough that it doesn’t even reach [him]”.
He told Daniels: “Some people are not at the point of acceptance. Not everyone will be clapping and cheering.
“That’s why you need to explain to people, talk to people, help them to understand. It’s always other people who inspire you, who give you the confidence until it’s your turn to do it. That’s why, to this day, we still need people to come out publicly.
“You don’t just do it for yourself. You go public because you want to help so many other people out there who you don’t know, those who are still afraid to say what they feel.
“That’s why I will never regret coming out. And Jake won’t either.”
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) May 16, 2022
Jake Daniels came out in an interview with Sky Sports, and has been met with a wave of support from players, football fans and public figures including Prince William.
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Daniels said he had “been thinking for a long time” about coming out.
“About how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I know now is the time,” he said.
“I am ready to be myself, be free and be confident with it all.”