Prejudice 'not just football issue'

09 January 2014 12:01

Everton manager Roberto Martinez insists it is not just individuals connected to football who feel it is difficult to be open about their sexuality after former Toffees player Thomas Hitzlsperger publicly came out as gay on Wednesday.

The German midfielder, who also played for Aston Villa and West Ham in the English top flight, became the most high-profile footballer to date to announce he was gay, but waited until the end of his playing career before going public with the news.

In a statement on his website, the 31-year-old argued that homosexuality is "simply ignored in football" and claimed that active players fear revealing they are gay because of the sport's environment.

While Martinez acknowledges it would be a courageous step for any current player to come out as gay, he thinks that is due to today's society, rather than football in general.

"It's not just football," he said.

"When you are competing in your daily work sometimes there is the professional, then there is the human being. Sometimes, in some workplaces, it is harder than others for the human side to be itself when you work as a professional.

"Ideally, you would love to be yourself and have the human being at the same level as the professional. (But) it's not just in football - there are many walks of life where that's not the case."

Hitzlsperger last played for Everton back in March 2013 and Martinez, who was in charge of Wigan during the German's career at Goodison Park, hopes he will feel happier following his announcement.

The Spaniard added: "You always feel as a footballer and as a human being you need to be able to be happy and that's what I would support. As a manager you want your players to be free and honest.

"We back Thomas' decision to be happy as a person and coming out and making the statement he made. That's important in any walk of life, not just sport. You need to be yourself and be able to express what your sexuality is."

Source: PA