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Harrowing documentary reveals what it’s really like for LGBT football fans in Russia

Ella Braidwood July 4, 2018

A new documentary has revealed the tense environment for LGBT+ football fans living in Russia, who report being routinely discriminated against by authorities.

The six-minute video by football publication Goal features an interview with Aleksandr Agapov, president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, about what daily like is like for queer football fans in the country.

In the video, Agapov, who flew a Pride flag at Russia’s opening match against Saudi Arabia, said that the World Cup presented a “window of opportunity” for LGBT+ people in his home country.

“We wanted to use it to be open to be visible, to show there are LGBTI football fans, who love football, who want to play football openly without discrimination,” he said.

Agapov, who organised a football match with LGBT+ players for the documentary, said that he waved the Pride flag at the opening World Cup game because “I should follow what I preach,” adding: “Only [by] being visible, we can change the things.”

However, about a third of the way through the documentary, the local police appeared off-camera, reportedly asking Agapov for his personal details and questioning him about his football pitch booking for the video.

Asked about the police appearing afterwards, he said: “They say that they’re here to protect us from any homophobes and so on.

“And I tend to believe it is so, but you know only because this is the World Cup and LGBTI issues are in the focus of the media.”

Agapov also said this was “not the first time” police had questioned him during the World Cup.

He went on to discuss what life was like for LBGT+ sports fans before the World Cup – implying that this would be the same once the competition ends.

LGBT England fans were told to take down a Pride-themed England fan at a World Cup match. (Aaron Chown/PA)

“First of all you will have warnings you will hear warnings from the venue, administrations saying that we will not like you to screen our logo or we will not like you to use rainbow signs because there is training of children on the next pitch,” he explained.

“Every time it’s about some special restrictions. It’s really hard and people are becoming nervous all the time.”

He added: “People know where they live and what consequences can happen.

“If you are straight you can walk hand in hand in the street, right? And LGBTI people cannot afford it.”

The activist said: “Every month we definitely hear some bad news about concerning LGBTI community, either somebody is blackmailed or somebody was fisted [punched].” 

Russian authorities seems to have relaxed their discriminatory policies for the duration of World Cup – however, there have still been reports of incidents involving LGB+I people.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was arrested at the start of the tournament, for staging a one-man protest against Russian president Vladamir Putin near Moscow’s Red Square. He was later released on bail.

And LGBT+ football fans had their Pride-themed England flag briefly taken down at one match. However, FIFA overruled the decision of the stewards, and put the flag back up in time for the game.

LGBT+ Russian activists, meanwhile, have expressed their fears over what life will be like for them after the World Cup has finished. 

More: Europe, LGBT, Russia, Russia, world cup

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