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BERLIN -- A former World Cup player from Germany came out as gay on Wednesday, rebuking the Russian anti-gay law that threatens to tarnish next months Sochi Olympics and challenging the longstanding stigma against homosexuality in football. Canucks Jersey . With his announcement, Thomas Hitzlsperger became the biggest name in football to declare he is gay. He said he wants to help break down the prejudice against homosexuality that has long permeated the macho, testosterone-fueled culture of the worlds most popular sport. "I am expressing my sexuality because I want to promote the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes," Hitzlsperger said in the German newspaper Die Zeit, a statement that was widely welcomed by his countrymen and former teammates. His disclosure came less than a month before the start of the Winter Games in Sochi, which have been the focus of a furious backlash in the West against a recently enacted Russian law banning gay "propaganda." The Olympics "are ahead of us, and I think we need some critical voices to counter the campaigns by various governments against homosexuality," Hitzlsperger said. Before retiring from the game four months ago, the 31-year-old former midfielder played in Englands Premier League and in Germany as well as Italy. He is the first German player to come out and the first from the Premier League. The fact that Hitzlsperger waited until his career was over to make the announcement reflected the persistent taboo in the game, where many players are reluctant to discuss homosexuality because they fear the reaction of teammates and fans. Hitzlsperger said he felt the time was right to broach a subject that was "simply ignored." "I get particularly annoyed by the fact that people who know the least are precisely the people to talk the loudest about this issue," he added, noting that the word "gay" is commonly used as a slur against footballers. At many football grounds, sexually themed chants are not uncommon. Fans in Britain sometimes chant songs that are viewed as religiously, sexually or racially offensive. In many European countries, especially in Russia and Eastern Europe, thousands of fans chant obscene songs, defying all attempts to stop them. Hitzlsperger said his own record shattered the idea that gays are "sissies." "I was a pretty tough guy with an extremely strong shot. Thats not something many can claim," he said. "My nickname is The Hammer. Its complete nonsense that gay men are unmanly." In England, outspoken Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton praised Hitzlsperger for his "courage" but lamented that he had to wait until now to make his announcement. "Sad times when people have to wait until they retire from their chosen profession before they feel other people will judge them solely on who the human being is," Barton said on Twitter. "Shame on all of us as a society." Hitzlsperger said he grew up in a small community in Catholic-dominated Bavaria, where homosexuality was treated as something unnatural or even criminal. He had a long-term relationship with a girlfriend and planned to marry her. "But then after eight years, the relationship ended without my partner knowing about my feelings for men. That was six years ago," Hitzlsperger said. "Only in the last few years did it dawn on me that I would rather live with a man." Hitzlsperger represented Germany at the 2006 World Cup and 2008 European Championship. He played for Bayern Munichs youth teams before switching to English club Aston Villa in 2001. He later played for Stuttgart, Italian club Lazio, West Ham, Wolfsburg and then Everton in the Premier League. "Homosexuality is not a serious issue in England, Germany or Italy, not in the dressing room in any case," said Hitzlsperger, who made 52 appearances for Germanys national team from 2004 to 2010. "Thats why its not easy to find anyone in the football scene who will talk publicly about his sexual orientation. To this day, I dont know any footballer personally who has made this an issue. "I was never ashamed of how I am," said Hitzlsperger, adding that the behaviour of some of his teammates was sometimes hard to take. "Think about it. There are 20 young men sitting around a table drinking. You let most of it go, as long as the jokes are halfway funny and the rubbish about homosexuals is not hugely offensive." Last February, American player Robbie Rogers declared he was gay before announcing his retirement. He returned to action with the Los Angeles Galaxy after an overwhelmingly positive reaction to his declaration. Former English player Justin Fashanu, who played for Norwich and Nottingham Forest, was the first footballer to say openly that he was gay in 1990. He committed suicide eight years later at age 37. Swedish defender Anton Hysen came out in 2011. Athletes from other sports have also spoken about their sexuality. Last month, British Olympic diver Tom Daley said he was in a relationship with a man. Other high-profile gay athletes include former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas, English cricketer Steven Davies and former NBA players Jason Collins and John Amaechi. On Twitter, German forward Lukas Podolski welcomed his former international teammates announcement, calling it "brave and right" and "an important sign in our time." Another former international teammate, Arne Friedrich, tweeted, "Im proud of you. Good decision and at the right time in my opinion." Government spokesman Steffen Seibert praised Hitzlspergers announcement on behalf of Chancellor Angela Merkel. "We judge footballers by whether they conduct themselves well and with dignity on and off the pitch, and I believe both are true for Mr. Hitzlsperger," Seibert said. German football federation president Wolfgang Niersbach said Hitzlsperger "was always an example for whom I had the highest respect, and this respect is even greater now." Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff said players were unaware of Hitzlspergers sexuality until after his retirement, when the player informed both him and Germany coach Joachim Loew. Said Bierhoff: "Well give him every support so he can continue on his courageous path." Loew hoped Hitzlspergers "announcement helps us all to be more relaxed about this issue." Alexander Mogilny Jersey . Scott won the Australian PGA last week in his first event in Australia since winning the U.S. Masters in April. American Matt Kuchar, ahead by two strokes with four to play and even with Scott with one to go, double-bogeyed the 18th after taking two shots to get out of a bunker. Dan Hamhuis Canucks Jersey . If ever they start actually putting pictures beside words in the dictionary, the Blue Jays left-handers mug will appear beside “Consistency. http:///...canucks-jersey-sale/ . Pence singled in the winning run with no outs in the ninth inning to give the Giants a 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.TORONTO -- Toronto Marlies coach Steve Spott didnt hesitate in calling Wednesday afternoons game Jerry DAmigos best of the season. DAmigo scored twice in regulation and added the shootout winner as the Toronto Marlies edged the San Antonio Rampage 5-4 in American Hockey League action. "Hes come back from the Leafs with a great attitude and the display he put on scoring goals, killing penalties and then in the shootout, he got our game puck and was deserving of it," said Spott. DAmigo beat Rampage starter Jacob Markstrom blocker-side in the sixth round of the shootout for the winner. "I was trying to bait the goalie to think I was going high blocker and went low," said DAmigo. "I kind of do that all the time when we do shootouts and Ive got a couple different moves from there, whatever I kind of read off the goalie, but it just kind of hit the post and went in." Brad Ross and Korbinian Holzer had the other goals in regulation for Toronto (27-15-4). Ryan Martindale, Matt Gilroy, John McFarland and Drew Shore replied for San Antonio (17-21-8). Gilroy had the best scoring chance in overtime, getting three opportunities to beat Marlies goalie Garret Sparks at 3:20 but came up short. "He was good, solid," said Spott of his netminder. "A real good prospect. He and Christopher Gibson auditioning for full time play up here and both guys have been solid. I think Garrett, since hes been recalled, has been very solid for us here in Toronto." Sparks stopped 18 shots in relief of Drew MacIntyre while Markstrom, who had lost both previous games against the Marlies, made 34 saves. Toronto improved to 3-0 this season against San Antonio, with one more regular-season meeting to go. The Marlies earned their third victory in six games and returned home after losing twice on their three-game, three-night road trip. Despite the loss, San Antonio is 10-4-4 all-time against Toronto and 5-1-1 at Ricoh Coliseum. The Rampage havent lost in regulation in six straight games (2--0-4) but dropped to 4-14-3 on the road. Chris Higgins Jersey. Alex Petrovic and Shore were playing in their first games since being re-assigned by the NHLs Florida Panthers. Greg McKegg, who played one game on a recall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, had two assists for the Marlies. "We rely on him in so many different categories. It was nice that he had his first NHL opportunity," Spott said. "It wasnt exactly a Tuesday night in Nashville, it was on Hockey Night in Canada against Ottawa so it was a great experience for both Greg and his family. "Hes come back here, I think, with a great mind set and were going to lean on him heavily down the stretch." Martindale put San Antonio ahead 4-3 with a short-handed goal at 12:39 of the third, beating Sparks to the stick-side for his fifth of the season. Ross tied it 4-4 at 14:29 on the power play, his fifth of the campaign. Prior to that, the two teams exchanged four second-period goals. DAmigo gave Toronto a 2-1 lead 1:18 into the period on the power play, his second of the game. Gilroy scored 36 seconds later to make it 2-2. McFarland replied at 14:33 to give the Rampage its first lead of the game. That goal was the third allowed on 15 shots by MacIntyre, who was then replaced by Sparks. "Sometimes youre right and some times youre wrong," said Spott. "I just felt at that point, we needed to change something and unfortunately some times you have to pull your goaltender to shake up your hockey club." Holzer then tied it 3-3 at 17:36 for Toronto. DAmigo opened the scoring with his eighth of the season at 7:38 of the first before Shore tied it less than a minute later. "Kind of got things going in the first period, and started us off good with that goal. That kind of gave me the confidence to keep moving the puck," said DAmigo. "I was just moving my feet the whole game and that helped out a lot." Toronto continues its season-high 10-game homestand Friday against the Grand Rapids Griffins. cheap nfl jerseys cheap jerseys cheap jerseys cheap jerseys cheap nfl jerseys wholesale jerseys ' ' '