Italian sports fans have reacted with both anger and praise after a local magazine featured two gay rugby players proudly kissing on its cover.
SportWeek cover stars Giacomo and Stefano are a couple who play together in Italy’s first gay-friendly amateur rugby team, Rome’s Libera Rugby.
The photo of their on-field smooch is accompanied by a headline that asks, “Who’s afraid of a kiss?” and an article addressing homophobia in sport.
The cover, which was posted on Twitter, was not well received by many of the magazine’s readers who lashed out at the image and expressed their disgust on social media.
Comments included, “EEEEEE yuck, I won’t read Sportweek again”, “Luckily I finished eating”, and “Tell me how I explain it to my 5 year old son?”
Despite the hateful reactions, most of the responses appeared to welcome the magazine’s efforts to tackle the taboo of gays and lesbians openly participating in the sports world.
“Great work! Thank you for putting the spotlight on LGBT athletes! Excellent photo too!” tweeted one man, while others added, “Well done for challenging ignorance!” and, “Great cover!! Wonderful picture.”
In stark contrast to most other major European nations, not only is same-sex marriage not legal in Italy but same-sex couples do not have access to any legal recognition, such as civil unions or partnerships.
Over the last 20 years numerous bills to recognise same-sex relationships have been rejected by the Italian Parliament in large part due to opposition from the Catholic Church.