Nigeria’s Super Falcons
A senior Nigerian sports official is under fire after claiming that lesbians are ruining women’s football in the country.
First Vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Seyi Akinwunmi was quoted as saying: “Lesbianism kills teams. People are afraid to talk about it.”
Speaking on the sports programme Hot Seat, he went on to add: “The coaches take advantage of the girls, so there is much more to build in female football.”
Akinwunmi has since “clarified” his statement, telling the BBC: “I noted that one of the problems we have encountered in trying to raise funds for the women’s game, is the perception of lesbianism therein.
“We strongly believe that there are still potential sponsors out there who will lend their support to help us develop our female teams because of the glory that these girls have brought to this country and their enormous potential to do even more,” he said.
Last year, there were reports that two players were dropped from the country’s 2015 Women’s World Cup team simply because they were rumoured to be gay.
In June 2011, ahead of the Women’s World Cup in Germany, it was also 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, the head of the Nigerian Women’s Football League, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, 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. The NFF denied that Onyedinma had made the comment.
Women are at the forefront of LGBT openness in the football world, with at least 17 openly lesbian or bisexual participants having taken part in last year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Gay sex and relationships are illegal in Nigeria, with penalties including 14 years’ imprisonment. Supporting or operating gay clubs, societies or organisations are also a criminal activity. Twelve northern states in Nigeria operate under Islamic Sharia law that allows homosexuality to be punished with death by stoning.