Women's soccer 'lesbianism' row reflects homophobia in Nigeria: activists

Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:27pm EDT
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By Kieran Guilbert

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nigerian gay rights activists have condemned a senior soccer official after he said sponsors were reluctant to back women's soccer in the country because of a misconception that female footballers are "synonymous with lesbianism".

Seyi Akinwunmi, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) vice-president, blamed lesbians last weekend for the recent decline of the national women's team, according to Nigerian media.

Known as the Super Falcons, the Nigerian women's team are the most successful African nation in women's soccer, but failed to qualify for this year's Olympic Games in Brazil.

Akinwunmi said "lesbianism kills teams" at a meeting of sports writers in Ibadan city, according to the Punch newspaper.

"Many potential sponsors have shied away from supporting the women's game because of the misconception that it is synonymous with lesbianism," he said in a statement on Tuesday to clarify his comments at the meeting in Nigeria's southwestern Oyo state.

Nigeria criminalized same-sex relationships in 2014, making them punishable by up to 14 years in prison in a country where anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife.

Nigerian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist Bisi Alimi said Akinwunmi's statement could incite more hatred towards a community that suffered fear and stigma.

"This statement is extremely disgusting and blatantly homophobic," Alimi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   Continued...