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Former German national teamer, Aston Villa star announces he’s gay

Jan 8, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT

Hitzlsperger believes current PL stars shouldn't feel afraid to reveal their homosexuality. Reuters

Thomas Hitzlsperger retired from professional soccer in September, making a bigger announcement this week in German newspaper Die Zeit.

He’s gay.

While the world may be moving toward a point where coming out stories are more common place — Robbie Rogers recently completely a season as the first active, openly-gay player in North American history — these stories are still opening eyes across the world and the 31-year-old former Premier League and Bundesliga star has opened up:

“I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards,” Hitzlsperger added.

The midfielder said he has only realized “in the past few years” that he would “prefer to live together with another man”, adding: “I’ve never been ashamed of the way I am.”

Hitzlsperger’s career was a high profile one, as he made 259 career appearance across the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A in addition to being capped 52 times and scoring six goals for the German national team.

He said one of his most challenging career tasks was dealing with locker room talk and other team events that sometimes dipped into unsavory territory.

“Just picture 20 men sat around a table together drinking – you’ve just got to let the majority be, just as long as the jokes are halfway funny and the talk about homosexuality doesn’t get too insulting,” he said.

The man nicknamed “The Hammer” by Aston Villa supporters made nearly 100 Premier League appearances and played in 110 total matches overall for the club, scoring 13 goals. He moved on to play in five seasons for VfB Stuttgart before short spells at Lazio, West Ham United, Wolfsburg and Everton.

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