Russia is So Anti-Gay, FIFA World Cup Can’t Be Held There

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday July 7, 2014

As FIFA looks at Russia to host the 2018 World Cup, officials are concerned that the nation is so homophobic, it won't jibe with FIFA's stated mission to fight discrimination at the World Cup. The governing body now suggests a "special task force" be created to deal with it.

Gay Star News reports that LGBT soccer fans are also up in arms about the homophobic and racist remarks made at this year's World Cup, and are calling for a proper investigation.

"There is absolutely no reason why at this World Cup we don't have anti-discrimination officers here doing proper investigations, proper reporting," said Jeffrey Webb, chairman of FIFA's Antidiscrimination Task Force.

But troublingly, the Advocate reports that while FIFA says it's committed to ending homophobic and racist slurs at soccer matches, the executives can't even agree on what constitutes a slur, to say nothing of the appropriate punishment.

"It is obvious there is a disconnect between what we in the task force deem as racism and discrimination and what the disciplinary committee deems as racism and discrimination," said Webb.

As an example, FIFA Disciplinary Committee Chairman Claudio Sulser defended his decision not to sanction Mexico for chanting the homophobic slur "puto," translated as "faggot" or male prostitute, saying only that it was "inappropriate" and "even kind of rude." Webb was unhappy that the evidence he provided of fans chanting gay slurs, wearing blackface and carrying banners with far-right symbols did not result in any sanctions.

But Susler said, "There have been isolated cases, but I do not want to intervene only for the sake of intervening." He pointed as evidence to the panel's banning of Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches after he led fans in a Nazi-era chant after a playoff win, as reported on ABC News.

As for Russia's tolerance toward LGBTs, Webb admits, "It is much more of a problem in Russia. Russia itself needs a special task force, just for Russia and from an educational standpoint internally."

A petition calling for Russia to be stripped of hosting the World Cup now has more than 70,000 signatures.

"The World Cup is meant to be a celebration not just of the game, but the incredible diversity that exists around the planet," writes petition organizer Zach Lewis. "Whether black or white or gay or straight or however you identify, you should not feel threatened to celebrate yourself and this beautiful game that unites the world. But that clearly won't be the case for millions if Russia is allowed to host the 2018 World Cup."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.