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Gay soccer group a finalist for first FIFA Diversity Award

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The International Gay and Lesbian Football Assn. makes the final cut.

An Argentina team during the 2010 Gay Games.
An Argentina team during the 2010 Gay Games.

The International Gay and Lesbian Football Assn., which has been promoting soccer in the LGBT community since 1992, is one of three finalists for the inaugural Diversity Award from FIFA, the world governing body for soccer.

IGLFA, which has more than 100 teams from 30 countries, is competing against these two groups for the award, which will be presented in September: Slum Soccer, an Indian program that "promotes the development of the most extremely marginalized sectors" of society; and Kick It Out, an English group, that works with soccer teams, players and fans to combat all forms of discrimination.

Two gay soccer players are on the 11-person jury making the selection: Abby Wambach, the recently retired star of the U.S. Women's National Team, and Thomas Hitzlperger, a former English Premier player who came out in 2014 after retiring.

Another jury member is Jaiyah Saelua, who was the first transgender player to take part in a World Cup qualifying match for the Samoan men's team. Saelua is a "fa’afafine," which translates to "way of a woman," and applies to male-to-female transgender people in Polynesian culture.

"Knowing that each nominee may be highly deserving  of the award will make our jobs difficult, but I am sure that this award will inspire more and more people from around the  world to make positive changes for their communities, organisations, and most especially for the sport," she said.

It's great that FIFA is recognizing these groups and the winner will be a worthy choice. There are parts of FIFA that seem intent on promoting diversity. However, where it really counts the organization falls short. The next two World Cups — in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 — are horrible choices given both nations' lack of support for gay rights. If FIFA truly cares about diversity it will make it impossible to hold the sport's most prestigious event in a country that does not support LGBT rights.