As a one of the LGBT community’s highest profile activists the former Germany midfielder said: “The Football v Homophobia month of action is an important time to push the debate around homophobia in football forward.
“It is a very important time. The events and activities organised by fans, clubs and activists show that there’s great support for LGBTI rights and it reassures players that the atmosphere in football is changing, that society is changing to become more inclusive.”
In 2016, Fare and FvH awarded 20 small grants to groups from across Europe to encourage grassroots activity against homophobia in football during the period. In the Balkans alone the participation grew from two groups in 2015 to 9 in 2016.
Hitzlsperger, who came out in January 2014, has been actively involved in campaigning to eradicate homophobia in the game. A year ago, he joined a FvH conference at the Football Museum in Manchester to discuss the role and contribution of supporter groups in tackling homophobia. Since 2014 the 33-year-old has also been actively involved in the Fare Football People action weeks.
Despite campaigning efforts, two major incidents of homophobia have come to light as a warning that more action is needed to address the problem. In French football this week, a video emerged of Paris Saint-German full-back Serge Aurier making homophobic comments towards the team manager Laurent Blanc. Earlier in January Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini accused Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri of using homophobic language towards him during a touchline disagreement.
Days before the incident world football governing body FIFA announced sanctions for six Latin American countries following homophobic incidents during FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifiers in October and November.