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Ugandan soccer academy attempts to oust women’s national team coach over ‘lesbian acts’

Faridah Bulega now potentially faces life imprisonment in Uganda.

2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
Uganda is one of the most anti-LGBTQ nations in the world, handing down life prison sentences for people in same-sex relationships. Still, the country is allowed to compete in events like the Olympics and the World Cup.
Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

The head coach of Uganda’s women’s national soccer team faces allegations of homosexuality that could force her out of her coaching position and into prison for the rest of her life.

Faridah Bulega has been accused of engaging in sexual acts with at least one of the female players she coaches, according to Soka. The charges come from Gaddford Soccer Academy.

To be sure, coaches engaging in sexual conduct with their players, whether they are of legal consenting age or not, raises serious issues. All powerful decision-makers are held to a higher standard due to the power structures at play. A coach makes decisions about starting lineups, playing time and all kinds of issues. So regardless of sexual orientation, there are some issues at play here.

Yet make no mistake, this doesn’t have to do with a coach-player relationship. This has to do with homophobia. The complaint letter filed by the Academy spells it out clearly:

“If [parents] realize that our club has that behavior of players they will stop them from playing for their club to avoid them being spoilt,” the letter read.

While it’s easy to point fingers at Uganda, the practice of “negative recruiting” at the collegiate level has been alive in the United States for decades. That features coaches, particularly in women’s sports, telling recruits and their parents that an opposing coach is a lesbian or runs a “lesbian program.”

Still, Uganda has one of the worst cultural and legal environments in the world for LGBTQ people. The punishment for same-sex sexual activity is imprisonment up to a lifetime sentence. There are literally zero legal protections for people based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment or anything else.

Just a couple years ago a soccer manager was imprisoned in Uganda for sodomy before having the conviction overturned.

In other words, the accusations now faced by Bulega are as serious as they could possibly be.

The next match of the Ugandan women’s national soccer team is in the next month. So we should know shortly how seriously the national federation is taking these allegations.