Even before the Women’s World Cup 2011 kicks off this Sunday, the rules have already been broken.
This week the New York Times reported¹ that the Nigerian Football Federation has been conducting a witch-hunt to kick women off the national team² “not because they were bad players, but because they were lesbians.”
For so many young women around the world, playing at the Women’s World Cup is a dream come true. Can you imagine being kicked off your soccer team because of who you love?
This Sunday, Nigeria is going to take the field for the opening game of the Women’s World Cup. Can you sign the petition telling FIFA—soccer’s international governing body—to publicly condemn this kind of systematic discrimination? Tell them that homophobia has no place in the league. We’ll deliver your comments to FIFA next week, during the games.
This should be a no-brainer for FIFA, which has a long history of standing up to discrimination around the world³. In 1961 FIFA expelled South Africa from the World Cup because of its racist apartheid system, readmitting them only in 1991 after the release of Nelson Mandela. In 2001 FIFA passed the Buenos Aires Resolution against racism, and followed it up with an ambitious “Say No to Racism” campaign, in response to the problem of racist taunts hurled at players around the world. And just last year the FIFA president responded to international pressure and apologized⁴ for a remark offensive to LGBT people, saying, "it was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination … this is exactly what we are against."
Now, as LGBT people around the world are gaining visibility and participating more fully in community life, including sports, they are too often met with discrimination, and violence. This has been especially true in Africa, where right wing Evangelical movements have recently singled-out and demonized LGBT people. One of the most high-profile recent cases in sport was that of Eudy Simelane, a beloved South African soccer player who was raped, beaten, stabbed and left to die near her own home last year.⁵
That’s why in Nigeria, where lesbians are sometimes ostracized and subjected to beatings, the Nigerian national soccer coach is playing a dangerous game with her homophobic witch-hunt. But there’s something we can do about it. In the battle against bigotry and discrimination, FIFA has real moral authority, and they can use that authority to take a clear stand against discrimination. With the Women’s World Cup launching this weekend, will you take a moment to ask FIFA president Joseph Blatter to publicly condemn Nigeria’s anti-gay campaign and make clear that homophobia has no place in soccer?
All the best and All Out,
Andre, Erika, Guillaume, Jeremy, Joseph, Nita, Oli, Prerna, Tile, Wesley and the rest of the team at All Out
1. In African Women’s Soccer, Homophobia Remains an Obstacle, New York Times, June 23rd 2011
2. No more lesbianism in Super Falcons – Coach Uche, Sun News Online, March 16th 2011
3. FIFA against racism: a decade of milestones
4. FIFA Leader Apologizes for Gay Sex Comment
5. Football’s stand against sexual violence and homophobia, The Guardian, June 19th 2010
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