Anti-homophobia activists are calling on FIFA to publicly condemn homophobia in league play. A group led by international gay rights organization AllOut.org is planning a “flashmob” demonstration in Frankfurt to take place before the opening whistle of the semi-final game of the Women’s World Cup, scheduled for July 13, the day FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football — which is the international governing body of association football, futsal and beach football — has set aside as their official “Day Against Discrimination.”
Although homophobia in football is a long-standing issue, remarks made earlier this year by Nigerian coach Eucharia Uche — that she’d kicked players off ther team “not because they were bad players, but because they were lesbians“ — is at the heart of this protest.
FIFA’s response to the allegations against Uche have been typically tepid. FIFA’s head of women’s competitions Tatjana Haenni told the Associated Press that FIFA would be “talking to” Uche, and pointing out to her that “it would be best to express oneself neutrally.” In addition, FIFA committed to a “Day Against Discrimination,” and directed the public to their “position on discriminating statements” in the meantime.
For AllOut.org, the response was not enough. Neither was it sufficient for the 45,000 people who signed a petition calling on FIFA to publicly condemn homophobia in sport, or for the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF), the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA), or the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), all of whom endorsed the campaign.
Now, more than 100 activists dressed as referees are expected to converge in front of the Frankfurt Football stadium on July 13 to urge FIFA to back up their discrimination policy, beginning with a full investigation into coach Uche. According to a press release, the group is asking for a suspension for Uche — a sanction that they say would be consistent with previous infractions by FIFA members including ones against Maradona and Zidane.
“Anyone who has played or watched football knows that there are consequences for breaking the rules of the game,’ said Andre Banks, co-founder of AllOut.org in a press release. “It is time for FIFA to finally cry foul and give Coach Uche the red card, sending a strong message that discrimination against lesbian and gay players will not be tolerated on or off the field.”
Despite some gains in anti-racism advocacy work in world football, FIFA’s been famously slow and ineffective in its response to complaints about homophobia. As a recent example, in early 2011 FIFA — along wth the UEFA — reconfirmed Vlatko Markovic for a fourth term as president of the Croatian Football Federation despite the fact that he told the press in late 2010 that “[a]s long as I’m president [of the Croatian Football Federation] there will be no gay players. Thank goodness only healthy people play football.”
Keph Senett is a Canadian writer who walks the line between incisiveness and ineptitude in her travels and on the soccer field, yet somehow she’s managed to get herself invited to play the beautiful game on four continents.
In addition to travel and soccer/football, Keph also writes about human rights, LGBT and gender issues, world politics, community, culture and her own folly. Read more at on her website.
Keph’s currently living and working in Mexico, and trying to figure out how to qualify for a soccer squad in Asia, Australia or Antarctica.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.