ISSUES relating to gay freedom seem to dominate every facet of the society, especially as more people identify with such liberty and association, albeit a vexed issue in some communities. Professionals of sundry vim are not left out. Not the least sports, were some renowned stars have openly confessed affiliation to odd sexual orientation. Nigeria is not an exception. It is, therefore, not surprising that sexual attitude among sports personnel has become topical and in some ways attributed to either high or the dwindling fortunes of the country in more than a particular sport. In fact, it was recently though tacitly identified as a major hindrance to the growth of female football, following the confession of a top member of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Seyi Akinwumi, that lesbianism or gay relations may have somewhat hampered female football development in Nigeria, though at the national team level. In fact, Akinwumi publicly admitted that the current killer against the growth of female soccer is lesbianism. Akinwumi, who spoke on the ills and the resultant damage that lesbianism has brought on Nigerian football declared thus “My passion for female football is as great as it is for grassroots football. But in reality, there are lots of problems with developing female football. It costs more and returns less. There are fewer players and less
interest in female football, but we have no excuse. “Lesbianism kills teams. People are afraid to talk about it. The coaches take advantage of the girls, so there is much more to build in female football,” he said in an apparent hint of the feelings of the NFF leadership. Though he later adduced that he was quoted out of context, but it was revealing, as he spoke without being lured into the subject matter and must have been meant to serve as a policy statement. Subsequent torrid of unpleasant reactions forced the NFF’s vice president to expectedly look for a scape goat and the media came handy, even as he struggled to deny the statement that he made before hundreds of people. In spite of his barely successful attempt to shift blame, many that spoke to Friday Magazine were of the belief that the NFF’s first vice president had touched a scar that has long been begging for immediate healing. While some of them opined that sexual preferences are personal and shouldn’t have any effect on the overall performance of a national team, others maintained that in most cases, peoples’ attitude could trigger ripple effects on their career, thereby bringing grave danger on the general performance of a particular vocation. They even wondered why one of those saddled with the responsibility of administering football in Nigeria would prefer to use public means as a way of proffering solutions when ordinarily he can rally his colleagues to put a permanent
stop to any menace endangering the game including claims that ‘employed’ coaches in charge of female teams equally contribute to their downfall. A deep look into the revelation by the hierarchy of the country’s soccer body has continued to generate ripples. According to an ex-footballer, who preferred anonymity, sexual relations among players has been in existence for years. “It is a problem, we all know and it is not only lesbianism, gay relation is rampant even though officials had not been vocal about it. Yes, to
some extent, the attitude is more among females than males and coaches know that some female players are lesbians and openly conduct themselves in ways that portray their social vim.” Though Nigeria is a secular state, nonetheless, Christianity and Islam are practised across the country. Both religions prohibit this sexual behaviour and gays or lesbians risk harassment and blackmail. In fact, gay men can be stoned to death for sodomy in the north. In Nigeria, where Christianity and Islam are extremely rooted, the idea of openly confessing to being a homosexual or lesbian would certainly not occur due to societal contempt for such moral practice. Besides, the National Assembly, an organ of government charged with making laws, barely two years ago resolved that anyone caught will face nothing less than a 14-year jail term. Even the obvious shame any individual would face is enough to discourage one from going public. Former Chairman, House Committee on Sports, Godfrey Gaiya, had condemned the ongoing lesbianism debate in female football in Nigeria and called on the leadership of the NFF to put mechanism in place to nip the issue in the bud. He maintained that nothing in particular should be allowed to hamper development in any sector of Nigeria’s socio-human economic existence, adding that; “Don’t forget, the laws of the land do not recognise lesbianism. It is not in our constitution. “If anyone is talking about whether an act such as
homosexuality can affect the performance of players on the field, that is debatable, but the fact remains that sometimes what individuals do, that is when it comes to extra-curricula activities can affect their general wellbeing. “Besides, Nigeria’s legal system doesn’t permit homosexuals, be it male or female footballer. If the country is in support of lesbians in the female team, I think it is double standard. It is against the law of the land and not good for the image of this country, we will not subdue and surrender ourselves to any moral quote. “So, my advice is if the NFF feels that there are traces of lesbianism in the female national team and it affects development and growth, they should find ways to tackle it. Our teams currently have not been doing well including the Super Falcons that used to be the powerhouse in Africa. For the second time, they have been able to qualify for the Olympic.’’ On her part, a social critic, Aderonke Bello, had a different perspective. She opined that an individual’s personal way of life has nothing to do with his or her output professionally. “In actual fact, are they disturbing you and how do you correlate their footballing prowess or abilities with their sexual orientation? Who says there are no homosexuals and bisexuals in the male mational team? No one is addressing that topic, but girls are being accused of lesbianism. It smirks of social ignorance of the world we live in today, as well as sexism. “However, it becomes a problem when they are seen or captured in the act, when they come and harass you sexually or when they come out in the open to talk about it. Such a player should rightfully be sent to 14 years imprisonment as stipulated by the law of the land. Whether Nigerian female footballers are lesbians or not should be irrelevant as long as they perform to the best of their ability. They need help and support rather than castigation. The league needs help, female football should be rescued.” Bello’s postulation was not the same with that of a former Super Falcons Coach, Eucharia Uche, and former Chairperson of Nigeria Women Football League, Dilichukwu Onyedinma. Even before Nigeria’s lawmakers stood against homosexual acts, Uche, during her time as the head coach of the country’s senior national team, totally condemned lesbianism and even threatened that anyone found culpable would be sent parking from the team. Similarly, Onydinma publicly criticised the misdemeanor which is generally seen as a taboo in this part of the world. Though, the world’s football governing body is yet to speak otherwise, stakeholders have continued to voice their misgiving on the growing rate of homosexuality in football, even as they have called on NFF to fashion out timely modalities that will bring back the glorious days of female football in Nigeria

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