• Bundesliga

Lehmann advises gay players to keep quiet

ESPN staff
January 28, 2014
Lehmann and Hitzlsperger were team-mates for Germany and Stuttgart © AP

Jens Lehmann has underlined how difficult it would be for a gay footballer to come out while still playing.

The former Arsenal goalkeeper said active professionals would be "crazy" to reveal their sexual orientation, adding that if a team-mate had done so during his playing days it would have been "strange. You shower together every day".

Lehmann spoke to Sky in Germany and has been criticised by the media there for his views on a subject which has been widely debated since Thomas Hitzlsperger, who played alongside the goalkeeper for Stuttgart and Germany, came out earlier this month.

Hitzlsperger retired from the game before admitting he was gay but still caused a stir when he spoke out because he addressed a taboo subject.

Lehmann advised current gay players to keep quiet. "Anyone doing that would be nuts," he said about any player thinking of coming out. "You can't foresee what would happen. You can't advise anyone to do so - they would no longer have fun playing football."

Asked how he would have found it had he known Hitzlsperger was gay during their time as team-mates, Lehmann said: "Strange, I think. You shower together every day, and there are times when it would be difficult.

"But Thomas Hitzlsperger is a player who never caused anyone to think that there is something - firstly because he is very intelligent and, secondly, because of his style of play."

Lehmann feels it is inevitable that a gay player would be victimised. "I know for sure that there would have been a few players, be it opponents or others in the dressing room, who would have permanently made jokes," he said.

"It's not like there are 25 intellectuals who discuss whether someone's gay or not. Football is a man's sport, and you don't have to think a lot, and you also can't control the fans in the stadiums. As a [gay player], should you have to put up with all that?"

The 44-year-old's suggestion that players should keep their homosexuality a secret caused some controversy in Germany, with the Stuttgarter Nachrichten headlining its article: "Lehmann talks himself into trouble." The German football monthly 11 Freunde described Lehmann's statements as "non-reflective" of the public mood.

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