THE former Aston Villa, West Ham and Germany soccer star Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced he is gay.
The famous midfielder is hoping to break down barriers in sport and end the in taboo of homosexuality in soccer.
Hitzlsperger's (31) career ended somewhat prematurely after battling a string of injuries last year.
In an interview with Germany's 'Die Zeit', the footballer said that he felt that now was "a good time" to reveal his sexuality.
His 'coming out' announcement marks him out as the first player to have played in the Premier League to admit that he is gay.
He said he made the decision to go public about his private life because he wants to "move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards."
Hitzlsperger, joins Robbie Rogers and Anton Hysen in the list of openly gay professional footballers
He revealed it was only in the past few years that he realised he would "prefer to live together with another man", saying the issue was taboo inside the dressing room.
However, he insisted that: "I've never been ashamed of the way I am."
The player claimed some of the comments dished out on the subject could be hurtful.
"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.
"In England, Germany or Italy, homosexuality is not taken seriously as an issue, at least not in the dressing room."
His openness on the subject provides a stark contrast to comments made by other leading figures in Germany. Most notably, the national team captain Philipp Lahm has made public his conviction that homosexual players should not come out.
With 52 caps for Germany and a notable career across the continent, Hitzlsperger is the highest profile footballer to have come out for years.