A woman representing queer English football fans unveiled a pro LGBT+ banner during last night’s match against Tunisia in a show of solidarity that has been welcomed by the LGBT+ community.
The show of defiance, which had the support of the English FA, was carried out by Di Cunningham, a member of The Three Lions Pride – an LGBT+ group of football supporters who had initially expressed anxiety about using the banner due to fears for their safety. FIFA had previously confirmed Russian authorities would allow Pride flags inside stadiums, however it was unclear if people would take the risk.
British MPs, along with the Foreign Office had warned LGBT+ supporters to be extra vigilant when attending games due to the hostile climate queer people face in Russia. Last week, veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was detained by the police for a pro LGBT+ demonstration.
Speaking about the banner prior to the match, Di Cunningham said: “We’re excited! It’s great to have the support of FIFA and the English FA to help make LGBT+ fans visible and welcome at this World Cup. We’ve had some trolling on social media but have seen and felt overwhelming backing globally for inclusion of our fan community at international competitions. The FA definitely wants it to be seen and wants us to go,” added Cunningham, “They have endorsed it.”
The move highlights the importance of LGBT+ visibility following ugly scenes during Sunday’s game between Germany and Mexico. FIFA have opened an investigation after Mexican fans were heard chanting homophobic slurs during the game. A new anti discrimination measure enshrined into FIFA regulations to combat discriminatory behaviour instructs the referee to stop the game so that a public service announcement can be made. FIFA has made no comment as to why the match was allowed to continue.
The Mexican FA has been repeatedly fined over the last number of years by FIFA over its failure to curb similar chants. Both the federation and the players have repeatedly urged their fans to cut out the slur over fears that sanctions against the team could escalate.
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