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Megan Rapinoe, Paul Pogba and Thomas Hitzlsperger lead football legends uniting to condemn homophobia in sport

Emma Powys Maurice December 23, 2020
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Football

Tyrone Mings, Olivier Giraud, Megan Rapinoe and Juan Mata were among the voices speaking out against bigotry in football (Outraged/UEFA)

Some of the biggest names in football have joined forces to condemn the widespread discrimination blighting their sport in a blistering new documentary, Outraged.

Produced by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the film explores the worrying rise in homophobia, racism and sexism in football, noting a surge in reported acts of discrimination in recent years.

It stars a host of football legends, including Megan Rapinoe, Paul Pogba, José Mourinho, Oliver Giroud, Nadia Nadim and Moise Kean, all of whom share their personal experiences of exclusion and discrimination in football.

“In general we’re seeing a rise in this sort of right-wing nationalism happening in the world, and I think that’s giving almost a breath of new life to these fans of football who are like, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one who feels this way’,” Rapinoe commented.

“Before Donald Trump it was much more unacceptable to blatantly say racist things, not that people didn’t feel racist things before, but people [now] feel empowered to do so.”

“It’s very important that [players] speak out,” added UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin. “They are the ones who suffer discrimination. We have to speak to the [players] who are on the pitch and who feel discrimination first-hand.”

French Premier League player Oliver Giroud spoke of his shock at seeing “unacceptable” homophobic banners raised at a match between Paris Saint-Germain and Metz last year.

And the captain of Georgia’s national team, Guram Kashia, described the wave of homophobic hatred he faced for the simple act of wearing an LGBT+ armband at a match in the Netherlands.

This kind of overt homophobia from some fans is a major reason why there are no openly LGBT+ elite footballers currently playing, but sometimes the discrimination is more subtle, as the out gay CEO of VFB Stuttgart, Thomas Hitzlsperger, explained.

“I wanted to come out when I was still playing because I knew it would have a huge impact, but my closest friends thought that’s a bad idea, so it just took me too long to be brave enough,” he said.

“It’s the dressing room that’s probably the most intimidating place, because there are your teammates, that’s where you talk about the game. You want to be successful, and suddenly there is a gay player in the dressing room and some people might be uncomfortable.

“In my opinion that’s what stops some players coming out.”

The film underlines the importance of proactive collaboration in the sport, and for players to take responsibility even when the abuse doesn’t target them personally.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to get rid of discrimination,” Megan Rapinoe concluded.

“If you’re a player that’s saying ‘fag’ in the locker room or you’re saying something like ‘that’s gay’, if you know there’s homophobic chants going on in the stands and you don’t say anything – you’re part of the problem as well.”

Related topics: football, homophobia in football, Megan Rapinoe, uefa

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