Former German soccer player Thomas Hitzlsperger told a German newspaper Wednesday that he is gay.
"It's been a long and difficult process" [of becoming aware of being gay]," Hitzlsperger said, according to The Guardian. "Only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living together with a man."
Hitzlsperger appeared 52 times for the German national team, including one World Cup. He's played all over the world, including Lazio in Italy and various English Premier League teams, before retiring last September.
More from Hitzlsperger:
"In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room. I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.
"Being gay is topic that is ignored in football and not a serious topic in the changing room. Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are intrinsically linked, that doesn't fit the cliché: 'Gays are soft.'"
Hitzlsperger said he wanted to come out so that he could "further the debate about homosexuals among sports professionals."
Last year, Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay MLS player when he signed with the LA Galaxy.