Did Nigerian women’s World Cup soccer team drop two lesbian players?

Nigeria's Super Falcons

Nigeria’s Super Falcons

There are renewed reports that the Nigerian women’s football team is still discriminating against players who are thought to be lesbian.

According to a recent Sports Illustrated article, a source claimed that two players were dropped from the country’s 2015 Women’s World Cup team simply because they were rumoured to be gay.

“If a player comes out and says, ‘I’m gay,’ then the trouble doesn’t just start and end with the player,” said the source.

“It goes all the way back to the family: parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, everything. One person just sparks off a chain reaction. That’s why it’s so tough.”

The Guardian reported that when asked about the issue at a press conference last month, Nigerian coach Edwin Okon responded: “I don’t know what you mean by ‘homosexual.’ I don’t deal with personal lives. I think of the game proper. I don’t think of my players. I only think of what they do on the pitch. That is what concerns me.”

In June 2011, ahead of the Women’s World Cup in Germany, it was claimed that rumours of lesbianism had led to some players being thrown out of the national women’s soccer team, the Super Falcons.

In March 2013, it was reported that the head of the Nigerian Women’s Football League, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, formally barred lesbian football players from taking part in the sport.

“Any player that we hear is associated with it [lesbianism] will be disqualified,” she was quoted as saying by the Nigerian media.

In response, FIFA promised to launch an investigation into the claimed homophobia but appears to have never done so.

Women are otherwise at the forefront of LGBT openness in the football world, with at least 17 openly lesbian or bisexual participants having taken part in the Women’s World Cup earlier this month.

The American team, with three out players and head coach, beat Japan in the finals in Vancouver to take home the trophy

Gay sex and relationships are illegal in Nigeria, with penalties including 14 years’ imprisonment. Supporting or operating gay clubs, societies or organisations is also a criminal activity. Twelve northern states in Nigeria operate under Islamic Sharia law that allows homosexuality to be punished with death by stoning.

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