LGBTQ football (or, as we call it- “soccer”) fans will be warned about holding hands in public and other displays of affection when they are in Russia for the The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, June 14 – July 15, 2018. A guide will be produced by Football Against Racism in Europe (F.A.R.E.), an organization that promotes equality in football, that will be handed out to fans travelling to the event.
Being LGBTQ is not illegal in Russia, but the country has a law banning teaching about homosexuality in schools and there are numerous cases where LGBTQ visitors from other countries have been attacked.
The executive director of F.A.R.E., Piara Powar:
“The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBTQ community. The same message is there for black and ethnic minority fans of the World Cup to but be cautious. If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so? That depends on which city they are in and the time of day.”
“The guide will also include some detailed explanations of the actual situation of the LGBTQ community in Russia. Issues relating to the LGBTQ community are not part of the public discourse. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground.”
F.A.R.E. has also written to FIFA on behalf of fan groups from the UK and Germany to ask for permission to raise the Rainbow Flag inside stadiums during the World Cup. Although political displays are banned inside stadiums it is understood that the governing body might consider Rainbow Flags to be okay and fans should be able to wave them during games. F.A.R.E. is also asking FIFA to introduce an official rule that fans can be reprimanded for demonstrations of homophobia or racism.
Their petition comes after the Court of Arbitration for Sports decision to drop two fines imposed by FIFA on Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación, Mexico’s football association, after fans loudly chanted the “puto”, the widely known Spanish language anti-gay slur, during international matches. The fines were for bad behavior, and not specifically for homophobia.
“Since the Brazil World Cup we have seen variations of that chant becoming a big thing in football. There is no offence of homophobia in FIFA’s rules and we have made clear that there should be. It is critical there is a clear message about FIFA’s ability to act in these cases against the fans that are responsible.”
Far-right Russian extremists have already had 300 Russians banned from attending the World Cup.
“In Russia it tends to be that politicians feel they are being attacked and say it is all a western conspiracy driven by the western media and then after a while they accept there are some issues and quietly get on with dealing with those issues. The local population are pretty proud of the fact they are hosting and want to be seen as acting as a good host.”
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