Ex Villa player is 'first German gay footballer'

Former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger has become the first ex-Premier League footballer to announce that he is gay.

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Thomas Hitzlsperger speaks about coming out in video

The former professional football player Thomas Hitzlsperger has released a video explaining his reasons for announcing he is gay.

Asked whether he thinks he could have made the announcement before his retirement, he says he believes young players "can talk about it" and that we will see a current footballer coming out earlier in their careers.

But he admitted he "does not know a single gay footballer personally".

More: Hitzlsperger is first openly gay ex-Premier League star

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Hitzlsperger: People think being gay means you're weak

Thomas Hitzlsperger has said he believes his case proves that it is possible to be strong and gay. In an interview on his website he said:

They think in ... professional football that you have to be strong, powerful. They think being gay means you aren't that, you're the opposite, you're soft, you don't really like to tackle, you're really weak.

But ... people nicknamed me 'The Hammer' early on because I've got a powerful left foot, I'm a strong guy ... Why do people think that being gay means that you're weak? I think I proved the opposite.

Read: Thomas Hitzlsperger speaks about coming out in video

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Clegg's 'huge respect' for Hitzlsperger courage

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has tweeted his "huge respect" for Thomas Hitzlsperger, who today became the first openly gay ex-Premier League footballer.

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Huge respect to @thomashitzl for his courage today. His bravery will help break down barriers in sport for the next generation.

Hitzlsperger acknowledged the message with a retweet.

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Aston Villa praises Hitzlsperger's announcement

Thomas Hitzlsperger's former club Aston Villa has praised him after the ex-footballer announced he was gay:

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Everyone who knows Thomas from his time here at Villa has great respect for him, not only as the fine player he was but also as a man. (1/3)

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His statement today is a straightforward statement and, along with our support as a club, we hope that everyone involved in the game...(2/3)