In the run up to the World Cup in Russia, there was quite a lot of concern for LGBT+ soccer fans travelling to a country that was noted for its homophobia. Not quite as much attention was given to the LGBT+ soccer fans who already live there. The football website Goal have attempted to remedy that, interviewing Russian LGBT Sport Federation president Aleksandr Agapov on the difficulties they face.
‘Police, Abuse And Violence – The Lives Of Russia’s Gay Football Fans’ is a six minute documentary looking at a ‘Football For All’ event organised by Agapov to gain visibility for Russia’s queer community. As he says in the video, “LGBTI people are marked as second class citizens. If you are straight you can walk hand in hand down the street. LGBTI people can not afford [to].”
He continues, “The World Cup is a window of opportunity, we want to use it to show there are LGBTI football fans who want to play football openly without discrimination.”
Agapov bravely flew the rainbow flag in the stadium at the opening match of the World Cup. His intention was to practice what he preached by bringing attention to the cause and to show other queer fans they could be visible during the competition. “Because only [by] being visible we can change things.”
During the video, the local police show up, alerted by the description of the event and the rainbow flags. They take Agapov’s details, address and phone number, quizzing him on where he got the money to pay for the venue. While the police insist they are there to protect the group from possible homophobia, Agapov believes it is the presence of the international media which prompts the visit.
Their is difficulty involved in even something to simple as organising a match for queer players due to concerns over their safety. As Agapov says, “People know where they live”.
In a poignant moment, he describes a trip to the Netherlands with an old partner and how he was so worried to show public affection. “It is like a prisoner who is released from the prison. For a very long time he or she feels himself herself still not free. This is how we live here.”
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