Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has said that it is impossible for professional footballers to be openly gay.

Football is still a sport where players are expected to embody the stereotypes of masculinity; hence while there are bound to statistically be many players who are homosexual, many will not embrace their sexual orientation out of fear of being discriminated against. However, with homophobia now being something that is rightly being strongly challenged by the mainstream media, there are bound to be more players coming out and embracing their sexual orientation in the near future.

While substantiating his claim, Giroud pointed to the example of former West Ham and German national team midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out in 2014 after his retirement from professional football.

To date, Hitzlsperger remains the only openly gay footballer to have played in the Premier League. The 36-year-old is best remembered for his spell with Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart and was part of the German squad which played in the 2006 World Cup on home soil, as well as in Euro 2008, in which they finished as runners-up, losing out to Spain in the final.

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“It was very emotional,” Giroud said of Hitzlsperger, as quoted by The Independent.“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.”

Another notable player who openly came out as gay is former US national team star Robbie Rodgers, who did so in 2013. Rodgers had a spell with Leeds United in England but is best remembered for his time with the Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy in the MLS.