Two incidents this week in Italy and Bosnia show how far European soccer has to go to fight homophobia.
Here is a banner that was displayed at a match in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina that reads: "May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and in honor of your holiday tomorrow we want you to suck our dicks."
A local report described the "appearance of a huge banner in the stands of the Kosevo stadium with homophobic insults towards the gay population. The banner was of enormous proportions and required several hundred fans to hold it. Their love for their team expressed through messages of hate and intolerance."
Making the banner was not a one-person job and was well-coordinated. The report said nothing was done by security to remove the banner. The head of the Football Against Racism in Europe network, Piara Powar, condemned the banner:
This choreography was one of the worst displays of homophobia we have seen this season, which may be a source of pride for the people responsible for it but it may also mark a watershed moment. The rules of football are clear, acts of discrimination are to be challenged and sanctioned, we will be contacting the Bosnian FA and the Bosnian government asking them to do just that.
"National sporting events cannot be the means of spreading hate; the people of Sarajevo know that better than most others.
It is inconceivable that anything like this could ever be displayed in an American stadium, yet this kind of stuff is all too common in parts of Eastern Europe.
The second incident occurred in Italy where Felice Belloli, the president of the county's amateur soccer association, made an ass of himself in a meeting on funding for women's soccer in the country.
The Italian Football Association (FIGC) opened an investigation on Friday after it was sent the minutes of the meeting of the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti (LND). Belloli allegedly said: "That's enough, we can't always talk about giving money to this bunch of lesbians," but on Friday denied having used those words. "I never signed those minutes," Belloli told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Can you see my signature on them? No, and I can tell you why - because minutes can be taken and amended by anybody. I know how the minutes are taken at the LND. All I am saying is that I did not utter that phrase."
However, Sonia Pessotto, a former player and a member of the council that looks after women's football for the FIGC, said on Friday that she was at the meeting and that Belloli had used the term. "I was there and he did use the phrase ‘bunch of lesbians.' Now he has to resign from his position as the president of the amateur football association."
Luisa Rizzitelli, the president of Assist, the national association for female athletes, agreed that Belloli should resign. "We don't consider the word lesbian to be offensive, but in this context it is unacceptable and homophobic," she told Tutto Sport. "Obviously, the Italian women's team winning bronze in the World Cup last year is not enough for him to respect athletes in this discipline, their coaches and managers."
The head of the association, Carlo Tavecchio, said: "If Belloli said these words then it is a serious matter. It is an odious and unacceptable phrase." However, Tavecchio came under fire himself last year when he referred to black soccer player as banana eaters.
It no wonder no major European soccer player has ever come out as gay. We clearly have issues in the U.S. with homophobia in sports but Europe is 10 years behind us in terms of being enlightened.