German football chief calls for gays to come out

German football chief calls for gays to come out

Published Jan. 17, 2012 4:58 p.m. ET

The departing German football federation president says it's time for gay players to come out.

Theo Zwanziger, who will leave the post in March, called on gay players ''to have the courage to declare themselves,'' although he conceded it was surely difficult to acknowledge one's homosexuality within a team.

Zwanziger pointed to the example of Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who came out years ago.

Speaking at a discussion on the subject organized by the federation, Zwanziger said on Tuesday that society was more understanding than a few years ago for any gays in football willing to out themselves.


Germany captain Philipp Lahm, however, disagrees.

''Football is like being the gladiators in the old times,'' Lahm said in an interview published Monday. ''The politicians can come out these days, for sure, but they don't have to play in front of 60,000 people every week.

''I don't think that the society is that far ahead that it can accept homosexual players as something normal as in other areas.''

Zwanziger said Lahm is a tolerant person ''and if that's how he sees the situation, I am not going to be the one to criticize him.''

No player in Germany's professional leagues has so far acknowledged his homosexuality.