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Rainbow armband put new MLS soccer player in Georgian fans’ crosshairs

Others in Georgia, including some politicians and soccer officials, support Guram Kashia’s inclusion statement.

Vitesse Arnhem v Go Ahead Eagles - Dutch Eredivisie
Guram Kashia showed support for the LGBTQ community while playing soccer in the Netherlands.
Photo by Anoek de Groot / EuroFootball / Getty Images

A soccer player for the San Jose Earthquakes has been facing some backlash back home over his outward support for the LGBTQ community. When he played professional soccer last year in the Netherlands, Guram Kashia wore a rainbow-colored captains armband. While that may have come to be expected in a place like the Netherlands, Kashia is from the nation of Georgia, where LGBTQ acceptance is still struggling.

The move drew attacks and criticism from fans back home, according to Eurasianet, with some even burning rainbow flags in front of the Georgian Football Federation. Of course most of the viciousness was levied by people sitting behind their keyboards on Twitter.

Yet there has been praise as well. Just last week it was announced that Kashia would receive the first #EqualGames award from the Union of European Football Associations (EUFA).

“Guram has taken an important stand to support the LGBT community and equality overall and deserves to win this award,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said of the selection.

“Guram Kashia has our full support,” said vice president of Georgian Football Federation Nika Jgharkava. “Moreover, the Football Federation is against any kind of discrimination, supports the idea of equality and will say this whenever and wherever we can.”

That’s progress for the former Soviet state. LGBTQ people do have some protections in Georgia. While same-sex marriage is constitutionally banned, same-sex sexual activity is legal.

Kashia was acquired by the San Jose Earthquakes in June.