Days after former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger's announcement that he is gay, German, Dutch and Swiss members of the "Queer Football Fanclubs" (QFF) meet in Germany's unofficial gay capital Cologne to discuss homophobia
COLOGNE, GERMANY (JANUARY 11, 2014) (REUTERS) - For years gays in football, be it fans or players, were an unthinkable concept. But now - with the coming out of Thomas Hitzlsperger - things have considerably changed. Homophobia especially in sports, has become a much discussed issue.
The move was widely praisesd by players, managers and fans alike. Dirk Bruellau of the gay and lesbian fan association Queer Football Fan Clubs (QFF) said.: " It is more important to the fans to know that the players is able to hit the goal than his sexual orientation. "
"I think it's easier in other sports and not so much in this well known sports of football," said one of the organizers of the QFF meeting on Saturday (January 11), Oliver Fine, in Germany's unofficial gay capitalCologne. "But it would have the biggest effect in Germany, as we all saw with Hitzlsperger and the huge media response. And the huge response in society. A gay swimmer would not have caused that."
"I myself used to play in the sixth division. And I wouldn't have the courage to do something like that then," the fan and former soccer player Andreas Stiene told Reuters. "Back then I thought I am the only gay football player in the world. And now I know that there are many others, and furthermore there are many many football fans who are gay or lesbian."
The 31-year-old, who retired in September, played 52 times for Germany between 2004 and 2010 and spent his club career at Aston Villa, VfB Stuttgart, Lazio, West Ham United, VfL Wolfsburg and Everton.
Despite its global popularity, soccer has seen very few gay players come out, especially during their active careers as the fear of a negative reaction from coaches, team mates and fans forces them to keep their sexuality secret.
The QFF is a network of European football supporters founded by football fans from Berlin, Stuttgart andDortmund during the German World Cup finals in 2006. The organisation comprises 19 German and 3 Swiss fan clubs, representing about 800 members.