This Saturday the Belgian Football Association marches to Pride

The highest authorities of Belgian football lead by example by sending a delegation to Belgian Pride. A telling gesture in a news that fluctuates between the coming out of young footballer Jake Daniels and the refusal of a PSG player to approve the World Day against Homophobia.

Jake Daniels @Isopix

As the Belgian Pride procession prepares to take to the streets of Brussels this Saturday, a Walloon plan has just been adopted that aligns sixteen measures. This plan aims to improve the acceptance of members of the LGBTQIA+ community through better representation through the associations (the seven Rainbow Houses and their PRISME federation have doubled their budget), a stronger welcome for young people, family breakdown, strengthening of the fight against violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans and intersex, better integration of people with an immigrant background and more attention for LGBT residents in rest homes. Listing these concerns is enough to measure the distance that still has to be traveled to eradicate discrimination. A look at their funding (almost 2.35 million euros) is enough to understand the importance of the project in a country where the Walloon region has declared itself a “free zone for LGBTQIA+ people”

While Pride is used to moving to the beat of benevolent political slogans, OPEN is the theme of the year,”as a call for more inclusiveness, respect and equality”, the news makes for illustrating all these speeches full of good intentions. A few days ago, Jake Daniels, a 17-year-old player from Blackpool in the English second division, came out. An event (which shouldn’t be) but whose impact is ultra-positive in the ranks of supporters, especially young fans, often looking for role models.

Didier Digneffe, 54, rare gay referee and member of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association, comments on Jake Daniels’ brave decision in an environment where homosexuality is still taboo, inspiring jokes and insults† “The best thing is not only his coming out, he explains, but the reactions – all positive – that followed. As always, there are a few muddleheads who express themselves on social networks, but are quickly reframed by others. We hope that the support for this boy will still be there when his coming out is no longer news. In addition, we still have to say that we should be able to live our lives without having to declare our sexual orientation. Being yourself and having to claim it is the sad side of coming out. No heterosexual has ever come out.

In France, but also in Belgium…

At the same time, in a sway as only the news has the secret, another player, Idrissa Gueye, 32, midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain, was at the center of a controversy that raised the issue of homophobia in the football world. On Sunday, May 15, Idrissa Gueye reportedly refused to take the field during a match against Montpellier, a match for which players wore a flocked shirt in the colors of the rainbow flag to mark World Wrestling Day Against Homophobia. Faced with the controversy, PSG had to explain themselves and point the finger at their player’s behaviour. In a statement, the club said:: “Idrissa Guye was not part of the group for individual and personal reasons. This decision is his† Furthermore, management reiterates its position: “PSG has always been keen to fight all forms of discrimination and did so again this weekend.”

Faced with criticism from the player, of Senegalese descent, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, wanted to express his friendship by tweeting: “I support Idrissa Gana Gueye. His religious beliefs must be respected.” Some might ask: can’t supporting the World Day Against Homophobia be considered a homophobic gesture? “If the fight against homophobia is waged, within a legal framework, by the Federation and by the clubs – in other words the employers of the players, everyone must put themselves at the service of this cause, attacker Didier Digneffe† That said, you don’t have to go to France to notice this kind of behavior. In 2019 and 2021, during the Football For All day for the fight against discrimination in football, players from Anderlecht and Standard – Albert Sambi Lokonga and Paul-José Mpoku – played refused to wear or display a rainbow bracelet provided by the Federation and the Pro League.”

Against all forms of discrimination

As a sign of the times, to show its support for the protest movement against discriminatory acts, the Belgian Football Association will march on Pride for the first time on Saturday. “It was timeexclaims Didier Digneffe. Things change and that’s great. Let’s not forget that the Belgian Football Association is the largest youth movement in the country, occupying several thousand young people every weekend and every Wednesday. Personally, I have experienced this suffering of not being myself in the football world. It’s a huge step today to feel like it used to be to see the Belgian football authorities parading at Pride. Of course I won’t miss it, I’ll be there with my medals and my Gay Games jersey (international sports events launched by the LGBT community in 1982 – Editor’s Note) where I whistled the football final in Paris.”

The Belgian Football Union at Pride is an extra episode – and a little more visible – to add to the Come Together dossier, as its plan to fight all discrimination since 1 July 2021 has led to the creation of a disciplinary committee. “For example, we forced a player who had made anti-Semitic remarks to the Caserne Dossin (in Mechelen, transit camp for Jews from Belgium during World War II – Editor’s note), explains Pierre Cornez, spokesperson for the Belgian Football Association† We will be present at Pride in a joint action with the regional wings of the ACFF, the association of French-speaking amateur football, and Voetbal Vlaanderen. In the group you will find different players from the football world – referees, supporters, coaches – who have been asked to display LGBT symbols. Belgian football officials at Pride, a huge step, to use Didier Digneffe’s expression, while waiting for star players there…

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