Times without number, the media, both local and international, have always delved into issues regarding the behavioural pattern of footballers all over the world. Notwithstanding, many still parade separate views when it comes to whether male and female players posses and portray right attitudes in the course of carrying out their professional duties.
From Europe to America, down to Asia, then Africa, most players have in the past suffered smeared campaign against their personal life styles. For instance, Real Madrid’s Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal was once accused of being a homosexual but never owned up to such practice regarded as abhorrent in this part of the globe.
However, the history of gay footballers dates back to early 90’s, though no top flight footballers has come out openly as gay in their playing career; and that’s largely down to the fear of managements losing sponsors and the fear of fans backlash.
The first openly admitted case of footballer being gay dates back to 1990 when Justin Fashanu announced his homosexuality, which did not go too well for his career and he ultimately took his own life eight years later, after he was accused of raping a 16-year-old boy.
British media has been actively trying to find the next gay footballers since then. Never the less, there are rumours that at least seven or eight footballers currently playing in English top flight are involved in similar sexual act, but they have been warned and advised not to even think about revealing their sexuality in public because of the backlash fears.
In many parts of Africa, homosexuality remains a particularly taboo subject and carries a significant social stigma.
In Nigeria where both Christianity and Islamic are extremely rooted, the idea of openly confessing to being a homosexual or lesbian would certainly not occur, apparently due to high level of moral disapproval on such practice which has been deeply condemned.
Besides, the National Assembly, an organ of government charged with making laws, barely two years ago resolved that anyone caught would face not less than a 14-year jail term. Even the obvious shame any individual would face is certainly enough to discourage one from going public.
And so, when the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, went public and declared that lesbianism had dealt a serious blow on Nigerian football, many were left dazed.
The trailing confusion which greeted the statement credited to NFF’s first vice president, Seyi Akinwunmi, who equally claimed that the act or issues of lesbianism had hindered would-be sponsors, rattled stakeholders, especially in football business. Also, his exposition while fielding questions from newsmen suddenly woke the sleeping dog.
Akinwunmi’s assertion, to many, momentarily veered off the mark. Exactly seven months ago, former chairperson of Nigerian Women Football, Dilichukwu Onyedinma informed those who cared to listen that the expected development of the country’s women soccer had been hampered by lack of genuine interest by those saddled with the responsibility of managing football for Africa’s most populous nation.
She particular disclosed that the 15 percent funding which world football governing body, FIFA, usually gives to countries for the sole purpose of growing women football had been repeatedly misapplied.
In fact, Onyedinma who now heads Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Sports Council, told Nigerians that her board since 2011 had not received any financial support from NFF for women football development in the country.
Onyedinma blamed the country’s women national teams’ recent poor performance and falling standard on inadequate funding, adding that great talents had dumped the country for fellow African countries due to the deteriorating standard of its leagues, lack of attention and absence of sponsorship.
According to her, “In terms of funding, Nigeria is ranked amongst the least in Africa. In few African countries, women’s football leagues receive heavy funding from their federation. While rival countries in Africa received huge and encouraging funding from their federations, the same cannot be said of Nigeria.
“Even though the quality of their leagues is far below ours, players from other countries who saw Nigeria as the Mecca of their career soon returned to their countries whose leagues were better funded, as well as get the whole of the 15 percent of the FIFA’s year’s yearly Women Football Development grant, directly in to their account via their federations.”
The revelation by the then Nigeria women football leader suggests open contrast to the recent claims by serving NFF’s next in command.
Now, the question on the lips of most Nigerians has been, what has tied the hands or idea of the country’s soccer body that has refused to swing into necessary action, even if lesbianism has kept sponsors at far distance all these times?
Again, they ask; how can an undisclosed private life affect corporate partnership which should ordinarily exist for the good of the game?
This year alone, all over the world, no fewer than 14 female footballers, including Germany’s Nadine Angerer, Sweden’s Lisa Dahlkvist and Nilla Fischer have been said to have openly announced their support for bisexual practice.
Such declaration from these players could go well with their ideology over there in Europe and America, but is unequivocally condemnable here in Nigeria.
Therefore, the leadership of NFF is expected to take bold steps in identifying and more seriously, dealing with such acts if at all they exist within the women national teams in a bid to walk their talk of sincere development of that aspect of our football, and not only look for blames on why the needful has not been done.
Damages already incurred or the looming danger ahead will not only affect the brand; ‘Nigeria football,’ especially the women facet, but could consistently hamper individual career growth for Nigerian women folk who have or want to make a living from kicking football anywhere, anytime.
Lest we forget, dormer Super Falcons handler, Eucharia Uche, who has tutored Falcons to win laurels continentally, courageously led the battle against lesbianism among national team players in the country when she held sway as the chief coach of the nation’s women senior national team. At some point, she succeeded in curbing the seeming menace. Who says NFF can’t do better if they are determined to do so?