Chelsea’s forward Olivier Giroud has admitted he “understands the pain and difficulty” that prevents professional footballers coming out as gay, saying that it is “impossible” to show homosexuality in the sport.
Giroud, who is in the France squad to face the Netherlands and Uruguay this week, posed on the cover of a gay magazine in 2012.
But he said in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro that the experiences of the former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger – who came out in 2014 – showed that football has yet to come to terms with the modern world.
“It was very emotional,” he said of Hitzlsperger. “This is when I told myself that it was impossible to display his homosexuality in football. In a changing room, there is a lot of testosterone, rooming together, collective showers … It’s tricky but it’s like that.
“I understand the pain and the difficulty of guys coming out; it’s a real test after working on oneself for years. I am ultra-tolerant on it – when I was in Montpellier I was engaged in this fight by posing for [the magazine] Têtu. At Arsenal when they asked me to wear the ‘Rainbow Laces’ in support of the gay community, I did it. There is still a lot of work in the football world on this subject, to say the least.”
Hitzlsperger, who retired in 2013, remains the only openly gay player to have played in the Premier League. Premier League and EFL clubs will again show their support for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign at the end of this month, with players wearing the laces and clubs using rainbow colours on corner flags and captain’s armbands.