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FIFA seeks to combat homophobia in soccer

Chile, Mexico among countries fined for anti-gay fans

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Jean Wyllys, gay news, Washington Blade, FIFA

‘Sport should give us pride and never should come with discrimination,’ said gay Brazilian Congressman Jean Wyllys.
(Photo by Cristina Gallo/Agência Senado; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Homophobia remains a serious problem in global soccer in spite of FIFA’s efforts to fight it.

Article 67 of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code states “the home association or home club is liable for improper conduct among spectators, regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight, and, depending on the situation, may be fined.” The provision also says “the visiting association or visiting club is liable for improper conduct among its own group of spectators, regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight, and, depending on the situation, maybe fined.”

“Improper conduct includes violence towards persons or objects, letting off incendiary devices, throwing missiles, displaying insulting or political slogans in any form, uttering insulting words or sounds, or invading the pitch,” reads Article 67.

Article 67 does not specifically include sexual orientation, but FIFA has used it to sanction countries over their fans’ anti-gay conduct.

FIFA since 2015 has fined Chile 180,000 Swiss francs ($187,149) for “homophobic chants by supporters” and “improper conduct among spectators” that included “homophobic chants” and “homophobic and insulting chants.” Three of the nine incidents that prompted FIFA to fine the South American country also resulted in banning matches at the National Stadium in Santiago.

FIFA imposed a one-game ban on official matches at the Metropolitan Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and fined the country 40,000 Swiss francs ($41,589) after fans shouted “homophobic chants” and threw water bottles during a Nov. 11, 2016, game against Panama.

FIFA since November 2015 has fined Mexico 130,000 Swiss francs ($135,163) for “homophobic chants” among its supporters during matches against the U.S., El Salvador, Canada, Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica.

Mexican soccer fans routinely taunt an opposing team’s goalkeeper by chanting “puto,” which roughly translates as “faggot” in English.

FIFA on June 20 issued a warning to Mexico after fans used the homophobic chant during a pre-2018 World Cup match that took place in Russia. The Mexican Football Association subsequently warned its fans to stop using the chant.

“As you know, FIFA is very serious about the chanting that we do when the goalkeeper takes a kick, and the possible sanctions are serious,” it said in a statement, according to NBC News. “Our efforts on the pitch will come to nothing if, because of this (behavior), we lose the match, the game is suspended or you are expelled from the stadium.”

“We lose, you lose, everyone loses,” added the Mexican Football Association.

FIFA since 2015 has also fined Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Greece, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay for “homophobic chants by supporters” during matches.

FIFA rules specifically ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, but the organization awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia in spite of the country’s LGBT rights record. A FIFA spokesperson told the Washington Blade the organization has a gay-inclusive “comprehensive strategy to combat discrimination” that includes a guide on how to promote diversity and fight discrimination.

“FIFA is committed to fighting all forms of discrimination in football, including homophobia,” said the spokesperson. “The sanctions related to homophobic chants applied around the FIFA World Cup qualifiers are proof of how seriously FIFA takes this issue.”

LGBT advocacy groups in Latin America have launched campaigns that are designed to combat homophobia in soccer.

The LGBT Federation of Argentina launched a campaign ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that featured retired soccer player Sergio Govcochea and Argentine sports reporter Juan Manuel Varela. The campaign, which incorporates FIFA’s Fair Play initiative, also featured clips of fans using homophobic and racist chants to taunt players from opposing teams during games.

“We believe in the value of Fair Play that FIFA launched years ago,” then-LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón in a statement that launched the campaign. “It has to leave the fields and reach the fans and also strongly fight against discrimination — not only against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people — in the stands.”

GLAAD, Google and YouTube also launched campaigns during the 2014 World Cup that promoted LGBT acceptance in soccer and other sports.

“Sport should give us pride and never should come with discrimination or exclusion; regardless of ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual orientation or any other type (of factor,)” said gay Brazilian Congressman Jean de Wyllys in Google’s “Play with Pride” campaign.

Chile’s National Association of Professional Soccer last October signed an agreement with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, an LGBT advocacy group, in which it pledged to fight homophobia and other forms of discrimination in professional soccer.

The two groups earlier this year launched a campaign to combat homophobic, racist and xenophobic chants in the country’s soccer stadiums. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in a March 29 press release applauded fans for their “good and respectful behavior” during a game between Chile and Venezuela that took place the day before at Monumental Stadium in the Santiago suburb of Macul.

“We did not hear, nor were we aware of any xenophobic, homophobic or racist chants or shouts, even during the second half when the Chilean team was in a tense moment,” said the Movement for the Homosexual Integration and Liberation. “What happened yesterday was, without doubt, an advance for respect and pacifism that we hope will continue.”

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Blinken criticizes FIFA threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA threatens sanctions

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Reliving a magical softball world series in D.C.

Jackson, Mace worked for years and through a pandemic to bring event to the city

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The Amateur Sports Alliance of North America brought its Softball World Series to D.C. in August. (Photo courtesy ASANA)

After almost two years of disruptions, the LGBTQ sports community in the District of Columbia is thriving once again.

Tournaments that were canceled have been rescheduled, leagues are back in action, and sports permitting within the District is working its way back to normal.

The Washington Blade checked in with two Chesapeake and Potomac Softball (CAPS) players who worked for several years to bring the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America (ASANA) Softball World Series to D.C.

The ASANA Softball World Series 2022 was held in D.C. in August and brought in more than 1,500 athletes, coaches and fans who celebrated sports and community over seven days.

Cis women, trans women, trans men and nonbinary athletes were eligible to play in the series, and cis men were welcome to coach or manage teams.

Rhonda Jackson and Tony Mace were co-hosts of the Host City Committee who brought the series to our nation’s capital.

Blade: Tell me about the journey to bring the ASANA World Series to D.C.

Tony Mace: We submitted our bid in 2019 to host the 2021 World Series, which was then rescheduled due to the pandemic. The 2020 Series was cancelled and eventually we received the 2022 award to host.

Blade: Was there a theme behind your bid?

Rhonda Jackson: Yes, our goal was to elevate the player experience both on and off the field. Every player was treated as if they were the best softball player on the planet. We wanted the players and the city to be the center of attention. We attended a Mystics game and a Nationals game, which were both great to experience as a community. 

Mace: We were excited for the opportunity to show off D.C. and we are really proud of what we are doing here as an LGBTQ softball community. We wanted to share it.

Blade: Let’s talk softball. How was the Series?

Mace: ASANA has 28 member cities, and we had a total of 47 teams from 21 cities competing in the B through E Divisions. The games were held at Watkins Regional Park and Fairland Regional Park.

Jackson: Everyone was treated as an elite athlete, and it didn’t feel like a local or regional tournament. The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation did an awesome job of getting the fields in shape for the Series. They were a big part of the player experience. When we arrived on the first day it was a spiritual moment. Everything was perfect and there were a lot of smiling faces. I hope we created memories that last a lifetime.

Blade: How many local teams competed?

Jackson: D.C. fielded five teams – DC Sharks won their division, DC Swag finished third in their division and Spartas finished fourth in their division.

Blade: And I understand congratulations are in order for you, RJ?

Jackson: During the Series, I was inducted into the ASANA Hall of Fame. My competitive teams, my local teams and the CAPS Board were all there. I could feel the love.

Mace: The Hall of Fame dinner was magical. Actually, every day of that week was incredible. It is truly amazing to have players from across the country come and play at your home ballpark. I made a ton of new friends and Friday night under the lights was a really special moment.

Jackson: The whole week was about special moments, connecting with new and old friends, giving folks an opportunity to thrive, and creating a safe, inclusive space to compete.

Blade: And congrats to you, too, Tony for being inducted into the CAPS Hall of Fame this year.Right after the ASANA World Series ended, you headed to Dallas to compete in NAGAAA Softball World Series with other CAPS travel teams. How was the tournament?

Mace: We had two teams from D.C. make it to the Division championships – DC Big Blue won the Masters D Division and DC Scruff finished second in the D Division. It is always great when your sister teams play well and seeing everyone pull together from the D.C. community to celebrate the DC Big Blue victory was heartwarming.

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