Born in 1982, Thomas Hitzlsperger was the son of a professional footballer. He first became successful in England, where he played for Aston Villa from 2001 to 2006. Hitzlsperger was popular with Aston Villa fans, who called him “The Hammer” because of his explosive left-footed shooting.
Thomas Hitzlsperger became a top player in 2006, when he moved back to Germany to play for VfB Stuttgart. By then he was already selected for the German national team, including the 2006 World Cup team. He also played for Germany in the 2008 European Championship. Hitzlsperger played 52 times for Germany. In 2007 he was captain of Stuttgart when they won the Bundesliga title.
Thomas Hitzlsperger’s career dipped after 2010. The new Stuttgart manager, Markus Babbel, chose another player as captain. Hitzlsperger moved to Italy to play for Lazio, and then back to England to play for West Ham United and Everton. He retired in 2013, saying that he needed “something else in his life”. Soon afterwards, in his column in Der Zeit, Thomas Hitzlsperger surprised football followers when he “came out” as a gay man. At that time he was the most high-profile player to do so, and drew a lot of additional attention, such as this item in The Guardian. In 2019 he was appointed head of sport at VfB Stuttgart. The German Football Association appointed him Ambassador for Diversity.
There have been gay footballers since the game began in the 19th century; but mostly always in secret, fearful of social condemnation, or legal persecution. Only in recent times players, coaches and referees have been able to “come out”, but this remains difficult.
Educators could look at the life story of Thomas Hitzlsperger and work with young people to consider these questions:
- What do you know about football culture that makes it difficult to “come out”?
- Why do you think he did not “come out” during his active playing career?
Find out more
Thomas Hitzlsperger, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, talks about his views on the current state of affairs on diversity, as well as broader inclusion and human rights issues. There are more initiatives surrounding this topic for example Rainbow laces. Read more about this campaign by the English Premier League.
Thomas Hitzlsperger, champion with VfB Stuttgart in 2007 (Photo: Stefan Bau).
LIFE STORIES To discover now
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
In the wake of the 2015 migration peak, activists and volunteers across Europe have been involved in supporting refugees, sometimes with the simple act of offering space and friendship to participate in football through grassroots clubs to help newcomers integrate.
BBC Sport’s Football Focus visits Bundesliga side FC Union Berlin, a “rebellious” football club from East Berlin with a special set of fans, playing their first season in Germany’s top flight 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
A class of high school history students in Oslo was asked to create an ideal starting XI line-up based on Human Rights. Find out why and how it went.
A loving fan and musician put together his two passions and created this compilation of tunes from the Jazz Age.
Prayer days on stadiums, faith rooms and inclusive chants: here is how English football is adapting to a changing world.
Engage young people through Football Makes History’s own Guidebook and Toolkit for promoting social inclusion in formal education or Non-formal settings
Telling the history of a city through football stories: a celebration of Amsterdam.