FIFA actually listen – who knew?
Back in June 2011 The New York Times featured an article which accused Eucharia Uche, the national coach of Nigerian Women’s soccer, of being homophobic. The article outlined how, during the two years of qualifying games for the World Cup, Uche went about systematically ridding the team of lesbian players, calling homosexuality “spiritually, morally very wrong”. The piece rightly highlights FIFA’s mission statement which says that the organisation is working to better women’s standing in society. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this practise goes against the very core of that statement and frankly, it makes the blood boil. It is also startling how open she is about this practice, obviously not seeing anything wrong with her actions.
Uche admits that having not witnessed any homosexuality from her players she relied on speculation and hearsay, stating
When rumors are strong, you are bound to believe it is happening
Good God, she’s serious. How horrible would it be to work towards your dream of playing in the World Cup, only to have it shattered by such blatant ignorance?
Thankfully people have spoken out and in large numbers too. AllOut, with the help of the Federation of Gay Games, and the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association, have facilitated people’s anger by hosting a petition, one that was signed by more than 47,000 people worldwide. Their website proudly announced last month that
FIFA has just announced they will be opening an investigation in to the Nigerian coach’s statements about purging lesbians from her team — sending a clear and important message: homophobia has no place in football, on or off the field.
For the past two years the Nigerian Football Federation has conducted a witch-hunt to kick women off the national team who were suspected of being lesbians. And Coach Uche just bragged to the New York Times that she has dealt with “the big problem of lesbianism”.
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has a powerful record of fighting discrimination. As Nigeria takes the field in the Women’s World Cup, keep the pressure on FIFA to give coach Uche the red card and publicly condemn homophobia in the sport.
This months sees them going one step further, saying
We just received a letter from FIFA’s Secretary General, Jérôme Valcke, announcing the first step of the investigation into Coach Uche’s homophobia.
This is one of those times when you have to smile and put your cynicism aside for a moment. There actually are times when our voices do count and are heard. Let’s hope FIFA take this as seriously as they should and really make a point to all those countries who put their players through the mill on issues that are of no concern to them.
Women like German’s Ursula Holl (right) are flying the flag for lesbians in the sport, but we shouldn’t forget that people like Uche are out there, and in positions of authority.
The whole story reminds me of the Rene Portland saga at Penn State women’s basketball. This, however, runs deeper in some ways, as these women do not necessarily live in countries who’s laws back up their rights. Indeed some live in places where they have no rights at all. Lets hope FIFA’s investigation into the Nigerian team leads to other countries taking note and making sure this kind of behavior is not tolerated.