Footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger opens up about coming out as gay in candid interview

Germany's midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger shouts during the World Cup 2010 qualifying match Liechtenstein vs Germany in Vaduz, Liechtenstein on September 6, 2008.AFP PHOTO DDP / OLIVER LANG (Photo credit should read OLIVER LANG/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Aston Villa player and out footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger has spoken about the “intense” first few days after he came out as gay in the spotlight.

Hitzlsperger, who also played for Everton, came out as gay in 2014, making him the highest-profile footballer to do so to date.

“The first few days were intense with all the media requests. But soon after, life continued to be not much different. The biggest challenge for me was to find a new passion after football and a job I liked. I am glad I didn’t take too long,” the sportsman said in an interview with GQ Style.

Football has been a slow adopter of gay rights, and there is not a single player out as gay, bi or trans in the Premier League.

Although Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign has garnered support from some of the Premiership’s top footballers, Hitzlsperger came out when he retired from the League.

In spite of this, the footballer believes that the game as a whole has got better at tackling prejudice since he shared his news.

“The football world is discussing all of these areas more openly than ever before. Not always do we see progress, but it is more clearly evident that people are willing to change the environment to a more accepting one.

“My focus is on those persons and those establishments that do good and less on the ones that are stuck in their outdated prejudices,” he added to the publication.

According to Stonewall, 72 percent of football fans have heard homophobic language used at a match in the last five years.

(PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Cup will be hosted in Russia this year.

Government policy allows the Russian state to actively discriminate against LGBT people, which has raised concerns about LGBT fans and players who will attend the event this year.

A guide for gay, lesbian and bi fans will be produced in anticipation of the cup, and will advise LGBT attendees to even avoid holding hands with their partner.

“The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community. The same message is there for black and ethnic minority fans – do go to the World Cup but be cautious.

“If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so – that depends on which city they are in and the time of day,” said producers of the booklet, Fare to The Guardian.

“The guide will also include some detailed explanations of, for example, the actual situation of the LGBT community in Russia. It is not a crime to be gay but there is a law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Issues relating to the LGBT community are not part of the public discourse. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground.”