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Jun 30, 2011
Olympiastadion Berlin via Wikimedia Commons

Olympiastadion Berlin via Wikimedia Commons

It’s not easy to be irrelevant and outrageous at the same time, but FIFA, under the ham-handed leadership of Sepp Blatter, seems to have achieved exactly that.

The homophobic remarks and discriminatory actions of Nigerian national team coach Eucharia Uche and the Nigerian Football Federation have finally been addressed. That’s right: FIFA’s head of women’s competitions Tatjana Haenni told the Associated Press today that FIFA will be “talking to” Uche, and pointing out to her that “it would be best to express oneself neutrally.” In other words, keep it to yourself.

“FIFA is against all forms of discrimination,” Haenni said. There, don’t you feel better?

This is the official response by the international governing body of football. Uche has come under fire for homophobic comments including that homosexuality is “dirty”, and that the lesbians on her team were “a really big problem”. In an attempt to cleanse the team she brought in priests, and ultimately removed several players. Former technical assistant for the Nigerian Football Federation James Peters said the dismissals were “not because they were not good players, but because they were lesbians.”

This is taking place during the Women’s World Cup tournament. Millions of eyes are trained on the players, the matches, the officials and the executives, yet even under this close scrutiny, Blatter and FIFA clearly feel that the matter is so insignificant that it doesn’t warrant more than a conversation. This tells us everything we need to know about the Association’s anti-discrimination policy.

I, for one, am saying this is nowhere near good enough. If you feel the same way, sign the AllOut petition demanding a real response from FIFA.

Update: FIFA’s “position on discriminating statements“, posted to the official web site June 30, 2011.

Update: Uche tells German paper Zeit Online “someone misquoted me”. Published June 30, 2011.

Update: Federation of Gay Games, International Gay and Lesbian Football Association, and AllOut.org write a letter to Sepp Blatter and FIFA.

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  1. Pingback: FIFA: Activists to Converge in Frankfurt on ‘Day Against Discrimination’ | The New Civil Rights Movement

  2. Laurie Caldwell says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have been trying to keep up with any continued progress or media attention on this, and there is very little. Will you please keep your eye on it and continue to post links and articles?

    I wonder why no one is asking any of the US players about the feelings or positions about the Nigerian coach. And here’s a good question: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-treadway/what-ever-happened-to-the_1_b_901860.html

  3. Laurie Caldwell says:

    I’m suggesting that the US players – being ranked number one in the world – make a statement about active and apparently condoned homophobic discrimination in the game. Don’t you think this would be an effective act on their part? I remember Mohammed Ali and how much he spoke out against racism, and how effective this was. So I guess I am not really asking for their feelings so much as their stance on the matter, to be more precise.

  4. ksenett says:

    Hi Laurie – thanks for commenting.

    I think that the efforts of LGBT sportspeople and straight allies (like Ben Cohen and Hudson Taylor, for example) are vital, and I think that any time a person or group chooses to speak out against discrimination, it’s a great thing.

    That said, I’m not sure the US players — or any other team — could have taken an outspoken political position during the tournament without breaking some rules (risking their participation) and jeopardizing their game play. This isn’t to say it shouldn’t have been done, but that it might have been too much to expect during the top competition of the sport.

    There were international activists out there doing their job, there were executives and officials doing their job… although I cheer any player or players who choose to step forward and speak out against homophobia, I think that at this time, in this place, they had a different job to do. Now the the competition is over, it would be fabulous to see or hear support for an anti-homophobia agenda from some of the players.

    I’d love for players from all nations — including African nations, including the tournament winners, Japan — to express their disapproval for homophobia in the game. I think that there’s a danger to looking to the US specifically to comment on this. It starts to take on some cultural nuances that don’t sit easily with me. I really think Nayar made this point effectively in her essay.

    Thanks for taking the time to write!

  5. Laurie Caldwell says:

    I didn’t expect anything of the sort during the tournament. I’m saying now that they are free to talk about the experience, it is my personal wish that they would make a statement. I know what you mean about the cultural implications re: the US, but they are my team, so that is why I want to hear it from them.

    It’s still a lot to ask, unfortunately, and I know that. Here these players have played for years without inadequate pay, no endorsements, etc etc, and now they are finally getting all of this attention…I am sure the last thing they want to do is risk that by appearing to be controversial. But I’d like to see it brought up and discussed as the human rights issue that it is. Everyone should be able to play the beautiful game without fear!

    Thanks for giving some examples of folks who have spoken out. And keep up your great work! I really appreciate it.

    Laurie aka Duck

  6. ksenett says:

    And thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

    Cheers,
    K-

  7. Pingback: FIFA: "Irrelevant and outrageous at the same time" - Federation of Gay Games

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