Pride rainbow colored fireworks greeted players at the A-League men's match between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory at Coopers Stadium | Maya Thompson / Getty Images

The Pride Celebrations in Australia’s A-Leagues at the weekend were certainly colorful. They were also meaningful to many of the country’s top-flight soccer stars.

The controversy surrounding Adelaide United teenage player Musa Toure’s anti-LGBTQ social media post was put to one side at Coopers Stadium. Instead, rainbow fireworks greeted the men’s team ahead of Saturday’s Pride Cup clash against Melbourne Victory.

With both Toure and Josh Cavallo — the only publicly out gay or bi A-League player, and one of very few worldwide — missing the game due to injuries, there was never likely to be any awkwardness on show.

Toure had already apologized for his “hurtful and insensitive” comments. The 18-year-old had said that being “a Muslim before anything” meant he did not support having a Pride round. He also claimed other Muslim players at Adelaide United took the same view.

Reds coach Carl Veart vowed to continue working with Toure, saying “he’s a young person… he realizes that he made a mistake.” It was reported in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that the teenager also planned to say sorry formally to Cavallo, who chose to not comment publicly on the episode.

Club shows support for Grace Wilson and Pride

Just a few days before Toure had put up his post on Instagram, Adelaide United had also voiced strong support for goalkeeper Grace Wilson after they became the first soccer player in Australia to come out as nonbinary.

Wilson is currently in Uzbekistan with the national Under-20 team who have made it through to the semi-finals of the U20 Women’s Asian Cup.

Meanwhile, another goalkeeper — Sydney FC’s Andrew Redmayne — demonstrated strong support by incorporating Progress Pride flags into his kit.

The 35-year-old is a hero among Socceroos supporters after securing the team’s spot at the 2022 men’s FIFA World Cup with a vital penalty save in the playoff shootout against Peru.

For Sunday’s home game against Brisbane Roar, there were rainbows on the cuffs of his goalkeeper gloves — an addition picked up on and promoted by the A-League’s official social media accounts.

Meanwhile, as noted on the Sydney FC website: “Players from the LGBTQIA+ inclusive football clubs Sydney Rangers and The Flying Bats were on hand to form a guard of honour at each game and wave large rainbow flags.”

Meanwhile, a host of A-League Women players praised the initiative.

Sydney FC defender Charlotte McLean told the Daily Telegraph that women’s soccer had always been “a safe space” for her.

“I can only speak for myself, but for me it’s always been good,” she explained.

“I’m just really happy that now the clubs and the league, which are the institutions rather than just my teammates, are really getting on board and seeing it as their responsibility to spread that acceptance.”

Perth Glory’s Tash Rigby was asked by the West Australian about a rise in online hate surrounding the Pride round on social media.

She called for greater empathy and said she hoped that people might “put themselves in someone else’s shoes and take the initiative to educate themselves around the challenges and adversity people that are a part of the pride community do come across.”

Central Coast Liberty captain Taren King said: “I think it’s so important that both clubs and players use their platforms to show our fans that everyone has a place in our game and all individuals are accepted for who they are.”

Hannah Wilkinson, the captain of Melbourne City, echoed that view.

She told the club’s official website: “Playing football in the A-Leagues as an openly gay female athlete can be really inspiring for those, especially in the rainbow community themselves, watching.”

Wilkinson scored the opening goal of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup for the New Zealand national team. A-League clubs based in New Zealand will show their support for the Pride Celebrations round on March 30.

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