THOMAS HITZLSPERGER believes gay footballers are living in fear of the repercussions they could face in coming out during their playing careers.
The 31-year-old former Germany, Aston Villa and Stuttgart midfielder announced yesterday that he is gay, having chosen to wait until the end of his playing career before going public with his news.
He becomes the highest profile openly gay footballer the game has known and hopes his move can persuade other closeted players to be open about their sexuality.
Hitzlsperger wrote on his website: "Homosexuality is simply ignored in football. The media, on the other hand, have been interested in the subject for years. It's just that the players concerned have not dared to declare their inclinations because the world of football still sees itself to some extent as a macho environment.
"The image of a gay player is typified by cliche and prejudice. The reality is rather different. People see a gay footballer as a contradiction in terms. And that is why virtually no professional player wants to expose himself to this kind of pressure."