Ten years ago, ex-national player Thomas Hitzlsperger made it public for the first time that he was gay. Since then, no professional football player in Germany has come out - but a group coming out has been announced for May 17, 2024, allegedly by several professional players. Marcus Urban is working on the initiative that is preparing the deadline; he knows from his own experience what is at stake. Long before Hitzlsperger, Urban was the first German football player to come out.
Urban was considered a great talent in the GDR; at Rot-Weiß Erfurt he played in the youth league with future stars such as Steffen Freund, Bernd Schneider and Thomas Linke. But before his career could really take off, he gave up: the pressure to hide his sexuality was too great. Out of fear of reprisals, discrimination and rejection, Urban turned his back on professional business in the early 1990s when he was just in his early 20s.
Today he works as project manager for the “Sports Free” campaign at the Association for Diversity in Sport and Society, with which he wants to give queer athletes the opportunity to publicly position themselves through a group coming out. Clubs such as Borussia Dortmund, FC St. Pauli, VfL Osnabrück, VfB Stuttgart, Union Berlin and SC Freiburg are taking part in the project. Urban is also a diversity coach and company founder. He wrote about homosexuality in professional sports and his own coming out in his biography "Hide and Seek".
Mr. Urban, on January 8, 2014, Thomas Hitzlsperger spoke publicly about his homosexuality for the first time in the “Zeit”. That was ten years ago now. After him, no other professional came out. Does football still have a problem with gays?
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