When German soccer all-star Thomas Hitzlsperger came out on Wednesday, January 8, he made history as the first ever Premier League European player to do so. Australian Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou hopes for one better—that all gay athletes might one day be comfortable enough to be open about their orientation.
“What you want—in any form of life—particularly in our country, is that people feel comfortable to express themselves in any way they want to,” said Postecoglou. “If there is somebody that feels comfortable enough to do that—I don’t think as society we’re closed-minded about these things.”
He added, “From our perspective, it’s about creating an environment that in our sport, in our nation, that allows people to feel comfortable in that space.”
Since coming out, Hitzlsperger—a former player for Aston Villa, Everton, and West Ham, who has played for Germany fifty-two times—is reportedly receiving strong support from the European football community and from former teammates.
In an interview, Hitzlperger said, “I’ve never been ashamed of the way I am.” He also added that he decided to come out in order “to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forward.”
The thirty-one-year-old soccer pro retired in September 2013.