You have to understand that my Mark is crazy about sports. His team is Crystal Palace, and he follows the team through thick and thin. I swear that if he could, he’d live at their home arena. When footballers come out as gay, he gets extra agitated to the point of jumping up and down on the spot.
So, today, when I came home he had this huge floppy grin and told me that some premier league footballer from Germany, who I’d never heard of, had come out of the closet. Don’t ask me to pronounce the name, but it’s Thomas Hitzlsperger.
Remember the uproar a while back when the British diver Tom Daley came out of the closet? Well, Tom Daley is still young and cute, while Hitzlsperger is in his thirties, but it is still about ten times as massive. Football is an obsession for a majority of people, and diving is not.
Daley may be the plucky young olympic medallist, but most of the fans of West Ham, Aston Villa, and Everton may never have heard of him. They will have heard of Hitzlsperger though because he played for those teams, and he was in the German national team 52 times.
So, there Mark was, with this huge big grin on his face as he gave me a hug and told me, and then mangled the name. Here I’m lucky I have copy and paste because I’m not sure I could even pronounce the name in writing.
And that makes me happy too because football is a sport that persist with outmoded attitudes of machismo and homophobia. Anything that brings the game into the 21st century has to be welcomed, and the day when the risk of homophobic abuse from the fans on the stands is gone, then maybe we won’t need footballers to come out.
Until that time, I think they do, and I think Hitzlsperger did a great thing, and I share Mark’s happiness about it. Although the German is nowhere near as cute as Tom Daley, but you can’t have everything, can you?