Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Time to clip the wings of the Super Falcons' coach

The women's world cup has sprang a number of surprises expected from tournament football.

Japan's rise to the final, England actually playing for penalties (only to, unsurprisingly lose), Germany failing in the first round of a knockout - all unexpected delights from tournament football.

But one unnecessary and despicable action has been the behaviour of Nigerian women's football manager Eucharia Uche.

Allegations of a "witch-hunt" of lesbian players in the country, who proudly play under the banner of the Super Falcons, have been ongoing for a number of months.

It is claimed Uche uses homophobic coaching measures, even describing homosexuality as “very dirty” and “spiritually, morally very wrong”.

Yet still Fifa sits on its hands.

This is why it was positive to see a demonstration against the actions taking place in Frankfurt this week.

Leading the protest was the international gay rights pressure group www.allout.org, who are demanding an investigation into the allegations.

More than 100 activists dressed as referees in front of SV Frankfurt's Commerzbank Arena and holding up red cards reading "Homophobia No."

It was a simple action against an issue which has been overlooked for far too long.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell perhaps summed up the situation best.

He said: "The reported purge last year of lesbian players from the Nigerian women's football team by Nigerian soccer federation official James Peters is outrageous discrimination.

"The team's current coach has also boasted that she is attempting to remove lesbian influences from the team. These actions go against the spirit that sport should be open to everyone and that players should be judged solely on their football abilities."

He added: "Fifa's silence and inaction is collusion with homophobic prejudice and discrimination. It has failed to act against the anti-lesbian policies of the Nigerian football authorities.

"Sepp Blatter and Fifa must insist that Nigerian football officials halt their witch-hunt of lesbian players. Allowing this discrimination is unacceptable. The beautiful game is not beautiful when it tolerates prejudice."

It may be that Fifa has its eye on other matters at the minute - most notably the allegations of in-house corruption.

But, homophobia in African football is not a new thing - the rape and killing of Eudy Simelane is just one incident of many.

But how long will it be before those with the power actually use the power.

We are beyond the stage where inactivity is an option.

This is a message to all the footballing authorities - this is an issue and you should tackle it.

For more on this issue:

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Markovic fine upheld - but is it enough?

What price a bigot?

The Justin Campaign has long been critical of Vlatko Markovic, the Croatian football federation president.

Last year the 74-year-old said in an interview that a gay player wouldn't play for Croatia while he led the federation.

He added he had never met a gay player because "only healthy people play football."

It sparked outrage not only from LGBT campaigners but also from football fans.

Uefa took the decision to punish one of the most powerful men in European football with a fine of $14,500.

When you consider the vast sums of money that the Croatian FA earns in a year through a variety of sponsorship deals and international game revenue then this amount was hardly a drop in the Adriatic Sea.

But still the footballing bureaucrat, who has since been re-elected to serve a fourth four-year term, decided to appeal the fine and attempt to get it overturned.

Thankfully, Uefa has seen sense and decided to uphold the punishment.

It is pleasing to see Uefa stand up to the diplomats who help fund its organisation.

If this ban had been overturned then completely the wrong message would have been sent out to football fans across the continent.

While the fine could have been a lot more, at least it still stands and is a firm sign that such comments are not welcome from those who run the game.

For if that is the message from the top, then what hope is there for those at the bottom looking for leadership.

But could Uefa not take a stronger stance and make this man stand down?

Their view is obviously no.

Uefa seemingly took the decision that it would be overstepping the mark to remove diplomats who have been elected by contemporaries, such as Markovic.

Any decision to reverse this would have no doubt overthrown the applecart and made its life a lot more difficult in the future.

While it is very easy to oppose this view, pragmatism, it seems, is the winner in this one.

But at least the officials in Switzerland have not completely ducked the issue.

Campaigners, fans, footballing authorities, everyone must work together if we are finally to bring some justice to tackling homophobia in football.

Friday, 1 July 2011

A New No. 10 For The Justin Campaign

The Justin Campaign’s founding director, Jason Hall, was honoured to be present at the recent Prime Minister’s Reception for LGBT groups which took place at Downing Street last week.

The reception had a strong sporting theme, with high-profile sportspeople such as Gareth Thomas, Ben Cohen and Billie Jean King attending along with the great and the good from

the LGBT community. Another attendee was Justin Campaign patron and Stonewall FC legend Aslie Pitter.

Jason presented the Prime Minister with a personalised Justin Fashanu All-Stars jersey (above - Jason is in the yellow tie) while he was also photographed with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone MP (below).

In his speech at the event, the Prime Minister admitted that the government needed to do more to encourage lesbian and gay sports people to come out.

The presence of Jason at this auspicious event was yet another truly positive step for The Justin Campaign on the road to beating homophobia in football.

For more information, contact alan@thejustincampaign.com.