In November, Croatian Football Federation President Vlatko Markovic said it, and in December, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said it. In both high-profile cases, the officials were heavily criticized and forced to apologize.
Apologies accepted, sirs – but with a caveat: it’s time for the world of football to accept its LGBT players and fans.
January 19, 2011 will be the second annual Football v Homophobia Initiative, an international day opposing homophobia in football (soccer). Organized by The Justin Campaign, the Initiative has already generated massive global interest, and was observed in eight countries in its first year.
Campaign Director Darren Ollerton hopes to build on this momentum. “As demonstrated by the narrow-minded comments from football industry officials recently, we have a long way to go in terms of nurturing an environment in both grassroots and professional football where sexuality becomes a non-issue,” Ollerton wrote to the group’s Facebook followers. “However, over the last twelve months some incredibly diverse organisations have emerged, facilitating a dense network of people globally who have ensured that homophobia in football is definitely on the public agenda.”
The Initiative offers a fun and easy way for all people to express their disapproval of homophobia in football, and it’s not limited to players. While many individuals and groups observe the event with an exhibition match, there are many other ways to participate as well.
The Justin Campaign organizers urge all supporters to blog, Tweet, and Facebook the event. Use your lists. Tell your league, your friends, your colleagues. Request promotional materials, such as posters, flyers, banners and stickers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and disseminate them throughout your networks. Use the Football v Homophobia Initiative pre-designed email signature to include in your email communications, and download a pre-written letter to send to your local politicians (both available soon on the new Initiative site at http://www.footballvhomophobia.co.uk/). Submit your event proposals before January 19 to be included on the site, and send in your event photos and stories afterwards. Fund raise.
In 2010, the actions taken on behalf of football’s top governing bodies spoke as loud as the words of the game’s top officials. But the people also have a voice, and the Initiative is a way to unify our message: homophobia has no place in the people’s game. Participate in Football v Homophobia 2011.
Keph Senett is a Canadian writer living in Mexico who’s proudly played soccer on four continents. You can read more from her at kephsenett.com. She’s the Communications Officer for The Justin Campaign.