How a German Soccer Star Is Breaking Barriers in U.S. Media

By Brian Flood Comment

Thomas Hitzlsperger, who played for the German national team during the 2006 World Cup, has signed a one-year deal to call soccer games for Fox Sports 1. Hitzlsperger, who came out as gay in 2014, is happy that wasn’t acknowledged during the process.

“Just the fact that it’s not an issue indicates that we are moving forward,” Hitzlsperger told TVNewser. “The fact that I’m working for Fox indicates that, for them, it’s not an issue. If you take on a role like Anderson Cooper or myself, you want to talk about your subject. I want to talk about soccer. This is my passion.”

Hitzlsperger will split his time between Los Angeles and Munich, providing in-studio and match analysis for FS1’s coverage of EPL, UEFA, and other soccer league games.

“About a year ago I found out that Fox Sports got the rights to [German professional league] Bundesliga and I always thought that this is something I’d like to do, work in media after my career as a player,” Hitzlsperger said. “I just enjoy the media side of it and being out here [in Los Angeles].”

Hitzlsperger said he’s learned a lot about the broadcasting business after years of being on the other side of the camera, culminating with the 2006 World Cup, in which the German team finished third on their home soil.

“When you become a professional soccer player, you’re being interviewed so many times that often you moan about the way [the media] reports things and how they write about you. You think, ‘well, how does it feel for them? Why do the players always complain?’ I just wanted to experience how difficult it is,” Hitzlsperger said. “I also realized I do not want to become a manager or coach, so this is a great way of staying in the game.”

Despite wanting to talk about soccer, and only soccer, the former midfielder realizes his sexuality may play a role in his commentary.

Robbie Rogers retired from professional soccer in 2013, in large part to avoid the pressure and scrutiny his decision to come out might cause. He returned to the game and currently plays for the L.A. Galaxy. In June, former MLS star Matt Hatzke came out as gay. His one regret, he says, was not coming out while he was still playing.

“If something comes up, or an athlete comes out as gay, that might be a good moment to give my opinion,” Hitzlsperger said. “But in general I talk about the sport. There isn’t space to talk about yourself on a show where people want to see soccer, or want to hear the news,” he said.

In the U.S., former athletes are a staple in broadcasting booths but Hitzlsperger said it’s different in Europe. “I’m calling games which you don’t do in Germany. Professional soccer players hardly ever call games,” he said, adding, “It’s, maybe, them thinking they’re much better than players. Players read the game well but commentating is a totally different discipline.”

And Hitzlsperger admits he’s still learning the other side of the game.

“It’s more about coming here and trying to figure out what is happening here. I’m still in a learning process, as I only started [broadcasting] in Germany about a year ago. I’m curious and want to learn,” he said.

Hitzlsperger might find out he can teach as much as he can learn.

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