Let’s be frank: if I told you that FIFA – an organization with a reputation so poor OPEC laughs in their general direction – nearly came out against homophobia last week, you wouldn’t believe me.
Actually, you’d probably have your a laugh of your own at such a ridiculous concept, as fanciful as the possiblity sounds. FIFA just doesn’t do the right thing unless it benefits them. A lot.
You’d be right about that last bit, which is why it – the coming out against homophobia and repudiation of so much bad that goes on in the world of soccer – didn’t happen. FIFA nearly did do the right thing, coming within a hair of denouncing homophobia at the opening ceremonies of the Women’s World Cup in Germany.
Honestly, it’s almost worse knowing how close we came to such a landmark proclamation, and only serves to harden FIFA’s reputation of a bunch of spineless jackasses only interested in protecting their fiefdom.
Here’s how it nearly happened:
A mistake by Berlin’s city administration double-booked the square in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate; both FIFA (for the official opening of the Women’s World Cup) and Berlin’s annual Gay Pride parade were promised use of the square. On a lark, the head of the Gay Pride Parade, Robert Kastl, offered to reroute the parade if FIFA would publicly denounce homophobia.
Amazingly, Sepp Blatter and FIFA agreed. Negotiations happened. FIFA also promised to fold sexual orientation into its larger anti-discrimination program, and use billboards at the opening game of the Women’s World Cup to announce their new initiative. A strong stance on homophobia by the governing body of a sport rife with problems in that area, and at one of its marquee events; it would have been huge.
But, as is always the case with FIFA, there was a catch. When FIFA failed to find a big-name musical act to play in front of the Bradenburg Gate as part of the opening ceremonies for the World Cup, they cancelled the event and backed out of the agreement. Everything, it seems, was contingent on FIFA’s desire to avoid confrontation over the use of the square. Once they didn’t need the square anymore, any possibility that they’d do the right thing went out the window. Blame Pink.
On the brink of FIFA’s historic announcement, World Cup organizers abruptly canceled the Brandenburg Gate event. They had hoped to attract blockbuster stars like Pink or Beyoncé, but by early spring hadn’t signed up any big-name talent. No longer needing the Brandenburg Gate as a backdrop, the federation backed away from its commitments. “The reason FIFA no longer feels obligated to continue is that this issue is still very difficult for them,” says a German soccer official speaking on the condition of anonymity. “There are a lot of member countries that still have problems with homosexuality, to put it mildly. And the people running FIFA are of a generation that has great difficulties speaking openly about the subject.”
Of course they could have denounced homophobia anyway, Brandenburg Gate backdrop or not. With the recent instances homophobia in the women’s game, it could have had a massive impact and done much good for both the women’s game and soccer in general.
In the end, FIFA managed to live down to their usual bottom-feeder standards.
Source: The Daily Beast