Wednesday, 13 June 2012

STATEMENT: Italy's Cassano apologies for "misinterpreted" comments

Italy and AC Milan striker Antonio Cassano has apologised after reportedly saying he hoped there were no gay players in the national squad.

The comments, which are sure to spark controversy, came after reports in the national media that two players in the Italian squad were homosexuals.

A hastily written statement issued on the official website of the Italian Football Federation last night clarified the Italian talisman's views.

It said: "I sincerely regret that my statements have sparked controversy and protest from gay rights groups.

"Homophobia is a sentiment that is not mine. I did not want to offend anyone and I can not question the sexual freedom of other people.

"I only said that it is a problem that does not concern me and it is not for me to pass judgment on the choices of others, who are all respected."

The apology came after Cassano responded to questions about reports in Italy which claimed there were two homosexual players in Cesare Prandelli's 23-man Euro 2012 squad.

Cassano reportedly said. "If I say what I think...I hope there are none. But if there are queers here, that's their business."

In response, the Justin Campaign said: "Once again we see a top footballer making homophobic comments to the media. Once again we see footballing authorities making a hasty u-turn in clarifying the words said to avoid a PR disaster. Once again the world receives an apology.

"With such a backdrop is it any wonder why footballers don't openly admit their sexuality?

"This is about more than PR management, it is people's lives. Change will not happen overnight. But Cassano's comments are at best unhelpful, at worst homophobic, and football needs a better example set by its figureheads if true equality is to be reached on and off the pitch."

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ukraine: a fit and proper place for Euro 2012?

On the eve of Poland and Ukraine hosting Euro 2012, thousands of fans who were going to make the trip east for the tournament are staying at home for fear of their safety. Tim Ridgway, of the Justin Campaign, asks if the tournament will be memorable but for all the wrong reasons.

Every four years, the best footballing nations from across the continent come together for the European Football Championships.

Featuring some of the best players in the world and with its heritage as the birthplace of football plus a fair few international disputes stretching back hundreds of years (England v France, Germany v Holland, Serbia v Croatia, Spain v Portugal) it makes for one of the best spectacles in sport.

Who can forget Gazza's celebration after scoring a wonder goal at Wembley in 1996? Or van Basten's volley to finally win a tournament for the Netherlands? And did anyone really see the Denmark team succeeding in 1992?

Yet what is intended as a showpiece for football on the continent has been overshadowed by some very visible signs that Ukraine and Poland, the hosts for the 2012 event, simply are not welcoming places for all followers of the beautiful game.

Since the documentary famous figures from across the footballing world, including David Beckham, have urged supporters to keep safe. Others have unconvincingly disputed the accuracy of the portrayal.

Yet, it is hard to disagree with the fact it it does not appear to be a safe place for members of the LGBT community.

Only last month Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of Gay Forum Ukraine, was attacked in full view of some members of the world's media after informing them the first gay pride in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev had been cancelled.

Such open acts of violence hardly fit in well with Uefa's vision of football for all.

If the footballing authorities and national Governments were prepared to use the tournament as a catalyst to promote equality in the country then perhaps hosting the tournament there could be seen as acceptable. But so far there seems to have been very few positive messages coming from anyone with real power.

If we use the BBC documentary as a basis then equality appears to have been absent from the dictionary in both the headquarters of the Ukrainian FA and police force. There appears to be little appetite for controlling these acts, either from individuals or those dishing out orders. Are arrests completely out of the question? And what about a warning from the Ukrainian government that any acts of violence will not be tolerated? With further reports of "monkey noises" aimed at the Dutch players after a training session on the eve of the tournament, surely enough is enough. 

With the tournament starting tomorrow, the event cannot be cancelled. But individuals and national FAs can take their own stands. If there are signs of abuse of any nature then why not just walk off the pitch and refuse to play? Uefa will soon have to act when faced with an unexpected egg dripping down its face.

Quite simply Euro 2012 is in danger for being remembered for all the wrong reasons. The footballing authorities have to realise that this is not just about Uefa spreading football across the continent and making money. Football should be a sport for all and by advocating nations that do not tolerate and accept people for who they are, it is failing those that make it so special.

Wear a rainbow for Euro 2012, ask equality campaigners

The issues surrounding fans attending Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland have been well publicised. With the competition starting tomorrow, a number of fans have been asking us what they can do to show solidarity to the LGBT community. The following has appeared on the Gay Games blog (

The European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation (EGLSF) has teamed up with the Pride Solidarity Campaign (supported by FARE) to identify opportunities for LGBT inclusion and human rights during Euro 2012.

Clare Dimyon, of Pride Solidarity, has been in Ukraine since Kyiv Pride, visiting Ukrainian LGBT communities including those in the four host cities of Kyiv, Karkhiv, Lviv and Donetsk. Clare has been promoting Football v Homophobia, the global campaign against prejudice and discrimination towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in football in preparation for Euro 2012.

Meanwhile, EGLSF has been preparing for the opening of Euro Pride House in Warsaw on Friday June 8 (part of the Football for Equality initiative). Euro Pride House is a space for all fans, players and football supporters during the Championships. Its focus is on the LGBT community but is open to anyone who wants to challenge homophobia in football.

During the tournament, the partners will be delivering two specific campaigns, ‘Wear a Rainbow at Euro 2012’ and ‘YOUR Euro Pride House’. 

Wear A Rainbow at Euro 2012

Last month people witnessed with horror the brutal beating of Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of the Gay-Forum of Ukraine, at the first ever gay parade in Kiev. This sparked major concerns over the safety of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people in Ukraine as well as those attending Euro 2012 in Ukraine in June. ‘Wear a Rainbow at euro 2012’ is a campaign to show solidarity with LGBT in Ukraine during the Euros. Anyone interested in challenging the violence perpetrated against LGBT in Europe can wear a silicone rainbow wristband to show support. Wristbands will be available at Euro Pride House in Warsaw and from various venues in Ukraine and those not in Ukraine and Poland can join in with this simple act of solidarity.

YOUR Euro Pride House

This campaign aims to enable LGBT people in Ukraine to hold their own Euro Pride Houses in environments in which they feel safe. Clare from the Pride Solidarity Campaign is facilitating a range of ‘Euro Pride Houses’ in various locations across Ukraine and supplying activists with Football v Homophobia leaflets, t-shirts and, of course wristbands for the ‘Wear a Rainbow at Euro 2012 campaign.

The YOUR Euro Pride House campaign also enables other European LGBT people to engage in Euro Pride House. Obviously many LGBT players, fans & activists will be watching Euro 2012 matches in their own countries, and will not be making the trip to Poland or Ukraine. YOUR Euro Pride House is a campaign to engage these fans in LGBT human rights issues in Central and Eastern Europe through football and enable us to use Euro 2012 as a vehicle to mobilise support. The campaign will enable fans, wherever they are in Europe, to be a part of Euro Pride house, by printing out the Euro Pride House logo from the Facebook page and posting a photo of themselves and their friends/team mates celebrating Euro 2012 wherever they are in Europe.