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Thomas Hitzlsperger: Football is tackling homophobia

Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger believes football is tackling homophobia, despite there being no openly gay players in the Premier League.

Hitzlsperger is the most prominent footballer to reveal he is gay.

The ex-Germany international is part of the Rainbow Laces campaign, which aims to show support to address homophobia.

“To see the progress is phenomenal and especially among the players,” Hitzlsperger, 32, told BBC Sport.

There are currently no openly gay footballers in any of the major European football leagues.

Hitzlsperger said he was encouraged by his own experiences since coming out but understood why players would be reticent to reveal their sexuality.

“Football is just so popular so one’s got to be very careful. If you come out and you’re not really prepared for it then it might be the end of your career,” he said.

“There is a lot of support going on in the football industry but unless we see someone still actively playing football, we don’t really know what will happen.

“When I came out I got quite a reaction, it was quite intense, a lot of people talked about it. Hopefully, next time someone does exactly the same, we will not talk about it for that long and they can just get on with their career.”

High-profile athletes from other sports have openly discussed their sexuality in recent years, with Olympic diver Tom Daley revealing in December he was in a relationship with a man.

But there are fewer examples in football. In 1990, former England Under-21 international Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to reveal he was gay. He took his own life eight years later, aged 37.

In February 2013, former United States and Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers said he was gay while Hitzlsperger, did the same in January, shortly after retiring from football.

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