Hitzlsperger hopes his announcement will help other players reveal they’re gay


On Wednesday former German international midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger became the most high-profile former soccer player to announce he is gay following his retirement from the sport.

Hitzlsperger, 31, retired from playing last season after multiple injuries meant he had to cut his promising career short. Stints in the Premier League with Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham saw him become a fans favorite as he was nicknamed ‘the hammer’ for his ridiculously hard shot with his left foot. Now he has decided to follow the LA Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers, who announced he was gay but then left English soccer and moved to MLS.

During his playing days Hitzlsperger represented his national side 52 times, and after revealing his sexual orientation earlier this week, he hopes players currently playing at the top level will speak out and become the first to reveal their gay while still playing professional soccer in Europe.

“Hopefully talking about it the way I am now, it encourages some others because they see that they can still be professional football players, play at the highest level, and be gay,” Hitzlsperger said. “It is not a contradiction as I proved. Therefore, hopefully it gives some encouragement to young players.”

But, given the huge level of interest from the media, fans and just about everyone out there, is it actually possibly for a current player to reveal his homosexuality and still concentrate on being a professional?

“I certainly think that it is possible and it will happen one day,” Hitzlsperger said. “In my case it just took longer to realize that I’m gay and t admit it to myself. But I think young players these days, when they’re sure about their feelings, they can talk about it.”

(MORE: Former German national teamer, Aston Villa star announces he’s gay)

On a personal level, Hitzlsperger was with his former female partner for eight years before breaking off their engagement and solely focusing on soccer.

“It took me a long time to realize how I felt,” Hitzsperger said. “When I started playing as a professional footballer I was in a relationship with a woman. we stayed together for eight years but after that time when we broke up. I focused more on football because this was what I always wanted to do, be a professional football player. Only the last few years I’ve realized that I do want to live with a man, that I am gay.”

source: Reuters
Hitzlsperger believes current PL stars shouldn’t feel afraid to reveal their homosexuality.

But what about the conception that soccer fans across Europe are against homosexual soccer players and all of the stereotypes that exist? Hitzlsperger thinks he did a lot with his playing style to help get ride of those negative connotations.

“I’ve heard that in professional football you have to be strong, powerful and they think being gay means you aren’t that. You’re soft, don’t like to tackle and that you’re very weak,” Hitzlsperger said. “But then I look at myself and people nicknamed me ‘the hammer’ early on because I have a powerful left foot and I’m a strong guy. So that’s a contradiction again. Why do people think that if you’re gay that you’re also weak? I think I proved the opposite”

In the future Hitzlsperger hopes the visibility of gay players will be embraced by fans across European soccer. But right now, it’s like they don’t even exist in many leagues and cultures.

“It’s difficult for me to say if there’s an anti-gay atmosphere because so far there isn’t an openly gay footballer in a European league,” Hitzlsperger said. “It’s probably easier if you compare it to racism. In racism you know who people dislike when they shout things at them, it’s clearly visible. But gay players, so far, don’t exist officially.”

Report: Ibrahimovic to sign with MLS next week, LA Galaxy likely landing spot

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It appears Zlatan Ibrahimovic will finally be taking his talents to the United States.

According to a report from ESPN FC, Ibrahimovic has played his last game for Manchester United, with the club ready to let the Swede out of his contract in order for him to sign in Major League Soccer. While it’s not 100 percent clear where Ibrahimovic will end up, the report states the Galaxy are the leading contenders for his services.

[READ: International preview, what to look forward to this week]

Ibrahimovic certainly comes to the U.S. with a rich pedigree, with a trophy room full of league titles and UEFA Champions League titles.

But there are questions hanging over Ibrahimovic. The 36-year-old is coming off a torn ACL and whether he’s healed now, 12 months since the injury, he’s made just five appearances for Man United this season, with four of them coming off the bench.

With many MLS clubs moving towards signing younger, up and coming talents, especially from South America, can Ibrahimovic keep up in a physical league, coming off a major injury and at his age? It’s likely he can make an impact, but considering the kind of money he’s likely to be on, it will be tough for him to be worth it without bringing an MLS Cup.

If he does sign with the LA Galaxy, it would be a massive statement back to their new noisy neighbor in LAFC, after the expansion club made waves signing Carlos Vela as a Designated Player and Bob Bradley as head coach. Ibrahimovic will have to quickly gel with Sigi Schmid’s squad, including with Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos in midfield.

Wilshere could have left Arsenal last August

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It’s hard to imagine an Arsenal team without Jack Wilshere on the books, but it nearly came to be during last summer’s transfer window.

Speaking openly in England’s training camp this week, Wilshere detailed how Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger approached him one day in August and told him the England international wasn’t in Wenger’s plans.

“It was an honest conversation,” Wilshere told The Guardian. “It had been boiling up for a while. Everybody knew I had a year left on my deal and had been out on loan, got injured and wasn’t really in his plans. He just said: ‘At the moment we are not going to be offering you a contract so, if you can get one somewhere else, you can go.’”

Wilshere said that he looked around but ultimately wanted to win his place back in the Arsenal first team, and he did so by November, after mainly playing in the Carabao Cup and UEFA Europa League through the first three months of the season.

This week, Wilshere earned a recall to the England National Team for the first time since the Three Lions’ disastrous defeat in Euro 2016 to Iceland and he’s played 31 appearances this season in all competitions, the most since the 2013-2014 season, showcasing a new-found fitness level.

That being said, Wilshere hasn’t found the form for Arsenal that earned him plaudits in the past from Xavi Hernandez. Wilshere looked off the pace in Arsenal defeats to Tottenham, Ostersunds and Manchester City in February, failing to make an impact in his central midfield role.

Wilshere has three months left on his contract, and while he said it wouldn’t be a distraction, the longer his future is unresolved, surely it will be in the back of his mind.

We had a sneak-peak in 2016-2017 with Wilshere playing on-loan at Bournemouth. Perhaps next season we’ll see Wilshere playing away from the Arsenal colors again. This time, on a permanent basis, unless Wenger changes his mind.

Bolt to train with Borussia Dortmund on Friday

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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Sprint star Usain Bolt is set to train with German soccer team Borussia Dortmund on Friday.

The Bundesliga club says the eight-time Olympic champion, whose last race before retirement was at the 2017 world championships, will “participate in an open training session” with coach Peter Stoeger’s side.

Bolt posted a picture of himself in a Dortmund shirt on Twitter, saying, “BVB, get ready for Friday.”

Dortmund, which shares a sponsor with Bolt in sportswear giant Puma, had long said that the 31-year-old could train with the team at some stage.

Dortmund’s next game after the international break is at Bayern Munich on March 31. Bayern can secure the league title then if other results go its way.

Can says he wants to play for “very big club” next year

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Liverpool swing man Emre Can – whose contract expires this summer – has not yet found a club to sign with yet, and the future free agent is playing up his own talents while looking for a new home.

“I have the self-confidence to say that my qualities are sufficient to play in a very big club next season,” Can told German newspaper Suddeutche Zeitung. “I’m doing great in England. The Spanish league is also attractive. The same applies to Germany, where tactics are concerned, and the Italian club football, which has recently caught up.”

“Incidentally, the same applies to France, this league has now established itself as one of the best in Europe. Therefore, I do not want to exclude anything.”

However, Can also said that the Premier League’s spending power plays a major role, and singled out the German top flight – his home country – for its inability to pay top players.

“Sure, the Bundesliga would interest me, why not? Although I must say honestly that the level has waned in recent years,” he said. “The Premier League has the power to spend more money on players than the Bundesliga. This is very, very important for players.”

Despite those comments, the 24-year-old insists that money is not the ultimate deciding factor in where he will play.

“What counts for me is that I’m an integral part of the team and at a club with a chance of winning the title,” he added. “That’s what every footballer dreams of because that’s the reward of your hard work.”

Can has not ruled out a return to Liverpool, a club that he says “still feels like family.”