As you probably already know, the World Cup soccer tournament, currently underway, is being held in Russia, a country at this point infamous for its laws forbidding public LGBTQ displays of any kind. As Russian activists predicted, gay fans have already been beaten up, and one gay activist has already been arrested. In defiance of all this, the English Football Association (FA) has planned to display a one-by-two-meter banner (above) at the Monday match between England and Tunisia that bears its Three Lions insignia but in rainbow Pride flag colors.
Di Cunningham, organizer of Three Lions Pride, an English LGBT soccer fan network, says, “The FA definitely wants it to be seen and want us to go. They have endorsed it.”
Cunningham adds that the group displaying the banner will also be wearing scarves with rainbow colors and the words “Three Lions Pride” on them as well as waving rainbow flags, something Russia officially said would be allowed during World Cup matches.
In fact, Aleksandr Agapov, president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, waved a rainbow flag in the stadium during Russia’s opening match against and Saudi Arabia.
During the event, Agapov’s organization will also host a football festival with amateur matches in different Russian cities, film screenings and an international conference to discuss LGBTQ issues in professional soccer and the World Cup.
Agapov says, “I believe we still have a chance to give a positive legacy of the World Cup to LGBTI Russians. LGBTI football fans should be visible, where it is safe to be visible. The Russian Football Union should present their program on fighting homophobia in football and sign a kind of memorandum with civil society for that.”
Peter Tatchell, the LGBTQ rights activist arrested yesterday morning after protesting Russian President Putin’s role in the ongoing campaign of kidnapping, torturing and murdering LGBTQ citizens in Chechnya, said, “It’s tremendously important that President Putin doesn’t score an unchallenged public relations coup with the World Cup. He needs to be called out over the persecution of LGBT+ people, his suppression of the civil rights of Russian citizens, and his war crimes in Syria.”