BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday became the latest high-profile figure to tell gay footballers they should have no fear of revealing their homosexuality.
"I am of the opinion that anyone who sums up the strength and bravery -- and we have a long tradition of this behind us in politics -- should know that they live in a land where they have nothing to fear," said Merkel at a forum in Berlin to discuss integration in sport.
"The fact that there are still fears for some people for their own situation means we need to send out a clear message: you must not be afraid."
While senior political figures, such as German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit, have come out, no current German Bundesliga footballer has revealed his homosexuality.
Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness said it is only a matter of time before a Bundesliga player comes out.
"It will happen, sooner or later. All clubs are advised to prepare for this topic, so they will have good answers," said Hoeness, speaking at the same Berlin forum as Merkel under the slogan "Go your own way".
Hoeness also said it will be crucial to "protect as much as necessary" any footballer who admits he is gay, but the subject is not new in German football.
Back in 2009, former German Football Federation (DFB) president Theo Zwanziger first said footballers should be supported if they want to come out and he repeated himself when he left office in January.
Last year, Germany striker Mario Gomez said openly gay footballers "would play as if they had been liberated. Being gay should no longer be a taboo topic."
But national team captain Philipp Lahm advised against it: "An openly gay footballer would be exposed to abusive elements," he told German magazine Bunte last year.
"For someone who does (come out), it would be very difficult."
But a homosexual Bundesliga footballer, who insisted on anonymity, told German magazine Fluter he faces a daily battle of fear and denial, insisting he would not feel safe if his sexuality was revealed.
"The price you have to pay for living the dream of playing in the Bundesliga is immense," he said.
"I have to be an actor and I have to lie to myself every day.
"This wasn't a problem to begin with, but it has become increasingly difficult over time.
"I really don't know if I can live under the constant pressure of having to be a heterosexual showcase player, whilst the danger of being exposed is lurking in the background, for the rest of my career."
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