The niece of Britain's first openly gay footballer Justin Fashanu has said ex-Premier League star Thomas Hitzlsperger's decision to reveal he is gay is "very significant" but said it was a shame he waited until he was retired to make the announcement
Everton manager Roberton Martinez says he fully supports Thomas Hitzlsperger's decision to announce he is gay.
"As a footballer and a human being you should be able to be happy. As a manager you want your players to be able to be free and honest and obviously we back Thomas's decision for coming out and making the statement that he made," said Martinez.
"I think it is important, you need to be able to be yourself and express your sexuality and in that respect we back his decision," he added.
The niece of gay footballer Justin Fashanu has said that while Thomas Hitzlsperger's decision to reveal he is gay is a move forward and "very significant", it is a shame that he waited until he was retired to make the announcement.
Amal Fashanu, 25, who made a documentary looking at why so few football players are openly gay, said it would have made a difference if Hitzlsperger had come out in his last year as a player.
"I think it is a shame, I think even in his last year he could have come out. He says he didn't have the time to do that, but I always say to myself there is always time to be real to yourself because what you don’t have time for is faking on a constant basis in your daily life," she said.
"It is a shame but it’s still good, so let’s not take away from that," she said.
Fashanu added that one day she hoped to see an openly gay Premier League footballer.
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.
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".