LGBT sports groups have urged FIFA to intervene in the banning of lesbians from Nigerian women’s soccer teams or face being branded “a homophobic organisation”.
Nigerian media reported this week that the Chair of the Nigerian Women’s Football League, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, had announced that the league has formally barred lesbian players from taking part in the sport.
“Any player that we hear is associated with it [lesbianism] will be disqualified,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Federation of Gay Games, the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation, Football v Homophobia, and AllOut released a letter they had written to Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, the world football federation.
The organisations expressed their concern about the latest reports of homophobia in Nigerian football as well as previous reports ahead of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany that coach Eucharia Uche had said that lesbian players had been thrown out of the Nigerian national team.
In the letter, the groups argued that these actions are “in direct contravention of FIFA’s anti-discrimination policies”.
They added: “Indeed, Mr. Blatter, in an interview on FIFA’s official site, dated August 12, 2011, you state very clearly that ‘[t]he sexual orientation of a player or coach is a private matter. People have to be able to live their lives free from all forms of discrimination.’”
The groups noted that “we have broached this subject with you before” but that “over one year has passed and we have received no further communication on this matter”.
Following the disclosure of Uche’s anti-gay stance in 2011, FIFA promised to launch an investigation into the issue but the results have never been released. In fact, it is not clear if an investigation was actually ever undertaken.
“Mr. Blatter… what is the status of the investigation into Nigerian Coach Uche’s discriminatory behaviour? And what will FIFA do to sanction Mrs Onyedinma and the Nigerian Women’s Football League in their discriminatory practices?” the groups asked.
They further said “that FIFA must now take firm action or confirm its reputation as a homophobic organisation, in contradiction to its bylaws and the Olympic Charter”.
FIFA has come under for its attitude towards homosexuality before. In 2010 it was criticised for selecting Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, to host the 2022 World Cup.
Responding to the issue, Blatter said at the time that gay fans who hoped to attend the World Cup “should refrain from any sexual activities”. He later apologised for the comment.