Former Germany player Thomas Hitzlsperger has called on members of the national team to speak out more on social issues. Hitzlsperger, who came out after his playing career ended, is the DFB’s diversity ambassador.Speaking in an interview published on the German website Sportbuzzer on Wednesday, Thomas Hitzlsperger called on the current crop of internationals to be bolder in their public comments on social and political issues.
“My impression is that most think first about the negative consequences (of critical comments),” the 35-year-old former midfielder said.
“They don’t see so much the opportunity of reaching people, and giving them a voice. But having courage, to express an opinion at times, doesn’t do any harm.”
He also said that while he believed that the 2018 World Cup should be an opportunity to promote more social freedoms in Russia, based upon his experiences at last summer’s Confederations Cup, he was not particularly optimistic about the impact that could be made.
“When we were there last summer, I sensed that the security issue was very big,” he said. “Hooliganism should be kept away from the World Cup. We talked about diversity, the Russians more about security.”
No regrets about coming out
Hitzlsperger, who began his career at Aston Villa before moving on to Stuttgart, Lazio, West Ham, Wolfsburg and Everton, came out of the closet as being gay in January 2014, after he had hung up his boots.
In the Sportbuzzer interview, Hitzlsperger said that he had no regrets about coming out, but that he wasn’t sure we would see an active player do so any time soon.
“As long as nobody does it, it means in their opinion we aren’t ready for it, yet,” he said. “That’s why I do my best to help create an atmosphere in which it could be easier… I too had to face criticism. However, I reached many more people, who said:’super!'”
Last May, Hitzlsperger, who works as a television commentator, was appointed as an “ambassador for diversity” for the German football association (DFB).
The draw for the 2018 World Cup is to be held in Moscow on Friday. The tournament is to open on June 14 and the final is to be played on July 15.