Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Ultimate Equal Ground.

The day before yesterday, Vlatko Markovic, president of the Croatian Football Federation, declared “[w]hile I’m a president of the Croatian Football Federation, there will be no homosexuals playing in the national team.” According to the Croatian Times, Markovic rounded out the insult with this spit-take of a comment: ”Luckily, only normal people play football.”

I’m pretty sure that like me, you’ve all been cozied up in the comfortable loving embrace of the “It Gets Better” campaign videos. They’re enormously sensitive, thoughtful and effective – and seemingly endless. LGBT people and allies have had a lot to be proud of in these past weeks, and we’ve got thousands of kilometres of tape to prove it.

But people like Markovic aren’t getting the memo, or video, so it’s up to us remind them that our place is every place, especially the football pitch. Football is the people’s game; the pitch is the people’s place. Even at the national team level, where players enjoy the status of demi-gods and investors throw endless pots of gold at “their” teams, the game still belongs to the people, and the people will play.

Markovic is a rich and powerful bully, but he doesn’t get to say who kicks about and who doesn’t, who’s normal and who isn’t. Because when it comes right down to it, we’re all mad – absolutely crazy – for this game.

Last year Brighton-based anti-homophobia organization The Justin Campaign launched the inaugural Football v Homophobia Initiative and the response was overwhelming. Using mostly word-of-mouth marketing and volunteer labour, the Initiative gained enough traction to have events take place in eight countries.

As an out and proud footballer, I see the Initiative as our very own “It Gets Better” campaign. I believe in the unifying power of sport, and that making sure that the pitches of the world – at recreational, competitive, and yes, even national levels – are safe and welcoming places for allplayers is a way of making it better right here, right now.

So this coming February strap on your cleats, peeps. Not a player? Then organize your event, have your fund raiser, or wear your pink and black scarves or shirts to support the Football v Homophobia Initiative. Just make sure you come out and help us prove that the pitch is the ultimate equal ground.

“This year’s event will be bigger, better, louder and prouder,” promises Darren Ollerton, director of the Justin Campaign. For more information on how to get your Initiative observance off the ground, and to request promotional posters, flyers, banners and stickers, contact organizers at info@thejustincampaign.com.

Keph Senett is a Canadian writer living in Mexico who’s proudly played soccer on four continents. She’s the Communications Officer for The Justin Campaign.

Article originally posted on Red Card Homophobia.

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