This week, the New York Times published an article that is disturbing to both supporters of LGBT equality and inclusion and sports fans - and especially to those of us who are both.
According to the Times, the coach of Nigeria’s powerful women’s national soccer team, Eucharia Uche (who called having lesbians on the team a “worrisome experience”) says that she has been ridding her team of any players who are not straight. According to the article, Uche regularly brought in Pentecostal ministers to pray with and counsel her players.
“The issue of lesbianism is common,” said Uche, who previously played in the World Cup for Nigeria and described herself as a Christian who is married and a mother of two children. “I came to realize it is not a physical battle; we need divine intervention in order to control and curb it. I tell you it worked for us. This is a thing of the past. It is never mentioned.”
This display of intolerance immediately brings back memories of South African soccer player and lesbian activist Eudy Simelane, who was murdered in 2009 at the age of 31 just for being who she was. Now, international LGBT advocacy organization All Out is calling on soccer's international governing board to condemn the actions of the Nigerian national women's soccer team.
In light of the blatant discrimination, and even termination, of players “suspected” of being gay, FIFA must publicly condemn this systematic discrimination, investigate the harassment, and take the necessary steps to end homophobia in the Nigerian league.
The action already has the support of the Federation of Gay Games and the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association. Back in December, when the President of the International Federation of Association Football apologized for his comments after announcing Qatar as the site of the 2022 World Cup, he said "It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination."
What Coach Uche is engaging in is clear discrimination, and FIFA should stand up against it. Sign AllOut's petition calling on FIFA to condemn the anti-gay actions of this team, before it plays its first World Cup match on Sunday.