Imagine you went to work one day at your office, shop, hospital, school or whatever and somebody there has just come out as gay - would it resonate at all, would you even talk about, or would it just mean nothing.
That is how it should be of course in the 21st century - but in the world of professional football that is certainly not the case.
Before today only three people have come out as homosexual in the men’s game. Justin Fashanu, Anton Hysen and Robbie Rodgers have made the brave step but today Thomas Hitzlsperger, the former Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton midfielder, announced to German magazine Die Zeit that he was gay.
"It's been a long and difficult process. Only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living together with a man. In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room. I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.”
It is certainly a brave step, even if in 2014 it shouldn’t be an issue, and it has been received well on the social network Twitter - with several famous footballers, gay sportstar’s and respected journalists all supporting ‘Der Hammer’…
Just want to take a moment & say GOOD JOB Thomas Hitzlsperger!! very proud over what youve done. Extremely good for football!— anton hysen official (@antonhysenoffic) January 8, 2014
Congratulations to Thomas Hitzelsperger - welcome to the club!— John Amaechi OBE (@JohnAmaechi) January 8, 2014
Huge respect for Thomas Hitzlsperger. Other gay footballers considering coming out will also see (generally) mature public/media reaction— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 8, 2014
Congratulations to Thomas Hitzlsperger on bravely being the first player to have played in the PL to 'come out' http://t.co/9boXWNpnFZ— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 8, 2014
In 2014 it shouldn't be an issue that a pro footballer is gay. Sadly it still is, therefore, huge credit to Thomas Hitzlsperger...— Jake Humphrey (@mrjakehumphrey) January 8, 2014
Former #EFC midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger has come out as gay. Brave move by a man who was very well liked during his time at Goodison— Greg O'Keeffe (@GregOK) January 8, 2014
Brave and right decision. Respect, Thomas Hitzlsperger. His outing is a important sign in our time. pic.twitter.com/c69Oml2Ocp— Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10) January 8, 2014
Thomas Hitzlsperger has shown a lot of courage today. Sad times when people have to wait till they retire from their chosen profession...— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) January 8, 2014
Huge respect to @ThomasHitzl for his courage today. His bravery will help break down barriers in sport for the next generation.— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) January 8, 2014
Everyone who knows Thomas from his time here at Villa has great respect for him, not only as the fine player he was but also as a man. (1/3)— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) January 8, 2014
Hello everyone! All these messages about my news, I am overwhelmed from this and I can't say thank you enough times!— Thomas Hitzlsperger (@ThomasHitzl) January 8, 2014
image: © Howard Lake