Sports
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Love is in the air . . . so come out, German football head urges

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Jamaica's new prime minister wouldn't mind gays in her Cabinet (though she didn't reiterate
that little tidbit in her post-election speech at the opening of Jamaica's
Parliament on Jan 17).

Harper's Conservatives fell all over themselves last week after a Department of Justice lawyer told a court that same-sex marriages of non-residents are not
really marriages if they can't get married in their home territories, so hey, you don't need to get a divorce, should you need one. But don't
panic, said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. We're not revising, revisiting,
rejigging, re-anything, with anybody's same-sex marriage. Actually, now that
you mention it, we'll make sure we close that "legislative gap," and
voilà, all same-sex marriages performed here will be recognized, he assured. We like you, we really like you. Okay, so he didn't say that last part.

And now . . . the head of the German Football Association is joining the international queer love fest. He wants
all gay players to come out, come out wherever they are, according to The
Local
, an English-language newspaper in Germany.

As far as Theo Zwanziger is concerned, the lay of the
land for gay footballers is getting better
, so why should they not declare
their homosexuality for all to hear and see?

Certainly, Zwanziger's not alone in that opinion, which
he aired at a public forum in Cologne that discussed sexuality in sports. 

The UK's Guardian newspaper ran a story in November 2010 noting
that German national player Mario Gomez had broken ranks with the German
football federation
and encouraged gay players to be honest about their
sexuality, a move that he feels would allow them to play with more abandon.

But then there's German national football team captain
Philipp Lahm, who feels that society is still not on board with openly gay
soccer stars.

"Football is like earlier gladiatorial combat. Sure,
politicians can now come out as homosexuals. But they don't have to play in
front of 60,000 spectators week after week," Lahm said, according to the
Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

And Lahm, who has denied rumours that he is gay, seems to
have his finger on that pulse. There are as yet no openly gay players in
Germany's top league, and he has advised those who may be gay to remain in the
closet, in his book A Subtle Difference.

The first professional player to declare his
homosexuality in the UK, Justin Fashanu, killed himself in 1998, but not before
speaking up about the sport's entrenched homophobia.

It doesn't help that in 2010, FIFA head Sepp Blatter – in
response to a question about the potential fate of gay soccer fans in
not-so-gay-friendly Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup – said they
should put sex on hold. And then apologized for his quip. 

Or that Croatian soccer president Vladimir Markovic
doesn't want gay players on the national team because "only healthy
people" play the game. 

Or that Nigeria's women's soccer coach Eucharia Uche
invoked religion to purge her team of lesbians
as it prepared for the Women's
World Cup in Germany last year.

And while some women footballers have come out, their
well-being often depends on where they undertake that bold venture.

In 2008, South Africa's Eudy Simelane was gang raped and
murdered after she came out.

It's more than time for FIFA to set a very public, very
consistent policy and message that homophobia is a no-no, in the vein of the
high-profile campaign they've been waging against racism in the sport over the
last decade.

Maybe consult with that German Football Association guy.

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