Thomas Hitzlsperger, the recently retired German footballer, has revealed that he is gay.
In an interview with German magazine Die Ziet, the 31-year-old former midfielder said that coming to grips with his sexuality was “a long and difficult process”.
He explained that “only in recent years has it dawned on me that I would prefer to live with another man”.
Hitzlsperger, who has played for the German national team and most recently with Everton, retired in September last year because of a knee injury.
He told Die Ziet that he “was never ashamed of being who I am” but admitted that “it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.”
Hitzlsperger added that he decided to come out “because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards”.
There is currently only one openly gay active professional footballer in the world, American Robbie Rogers. He retired just as he came out in February 2013, but in May changed his mind and returned to playing for Los Angeles Galaxy.
The only previous openly-gay professional footballer was Britain’s Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 and committed suicide eight years later.