Theo Zwanziger, whose term as German soccer federation president will end in March, has called on gay soccer players "to have the courage to declare themselves," saying German society was more tolerant than it was a few years ago.
Zwanziger, who admitted its was not easy for a player to declare his or her homosexuality to teammates, used Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit as an example of a public figure who came out years ago. German national team captain Philipp Lahm said it wasn't so easy.
"Soccer is like being the gladiators in the old times," Lahm said in an interview with Fr-Online.de. "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 refused to take exception to Lahm's position, saying the Bayern defender 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 German pro league player has acknowledged his homosexuality.