The FIFA’s Women’s World Cup competition in Germany has been overshadowed by reports that Nigeria’s women’s football coach is purging suspected lesbians from the team.
Last week, the president of the German Football Federation, Theo Zwanziger, issued a statement calling on FIFA — football’s international governing body — to investigate news reports.
“Our association resolutely combats any kind of discrimination,” Zwanziger said.
“This also includes the fight against homophobia. The current issue around the coach of the Nigerian national team certainly requires further discussion. But this can only be done by the tournament host, which is FIFA.”
“FIFA is against all forms of discrimination,” FIFA’s head of women’s competitions told German television channel ARD last week.
“Homosexuality is a dirty thing. Spiritually and morally it is very, very wrong,” Nigeria’s coach, Eucharia Uche, told The New York Times last month. She said team members were being dismissed “not because they were bad players, but because they were lesbians”.
LGBT advocacy group All Out have launched an online campaign calling on FIFA to publicly condemn homophobia in the sport in light of what they’re calling “systematic discrimination”.
Melbourne GLBT soccer club president Heath Wilson said the Rovers would add their name to the online campaign.
“There is no place for homophobia on any sporting field around the world,” he said.
Sydney Rangers Football Club president Gavin Mears echoed Zwanziger’s sentiments when approached by the Star Observer for comment.
“In its own rules FIFA clearly states that any team that does not abide by the ideals of inclusion and equality should not be allowed to participate, so why has FIFA taken no action against this team or at the very least investigated the matter?” he asked.
“FIFA needs to join the modern era, and it needs to bring its members along with it. There is no place for discrimination of any kind in sport, and any team or nation that does not hold to that should be encouraged to change its stance.
“Sport, and in particular football, can be used to help end discrimination and FIFA should be leading the way on this, not once again hiding its head in the sand and hoping it will go away.”
Mears pointed to FIFA’s successful anti-racism campaign as an example of the organisation tackling discrimination head on, and said he was disappointed they did not show the same leadership when it comes to fighting for the rights of their gay and lesbian players and supporters.
“FIFA cannot change the laws of a country but it can offer support to the gay and lesbian players everywhere and with that show those countries who still discriminate that they do not have the support of FIFA.
“By doing nothing as FIFA is doing in this case, it is offering tacit support to the Nigerian Football Association and its homophobic stance.”
In April 2008, openly gay Eudy Simelane, a former midfielder for South Africa’s women’s national team, was raped, beaten, stabbed and left to die in a creek 200 metres from her home.
Last year FIFA president Sepp Blatter responded to international pressure and apologised for saying gay fans should abstain from sex during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
info: The petition is at www.allout.org/fifa