Eucharia Uche, coach of the Nigeria team competing in this summer's Women's World Cup, has called homosexuality a "dirty issue," and "spiritually, morally very wrong."
In Africa, a continent where homosexual behavior is widely considered immoral, lesbians are sometimes ostracized and subjected to beatings. In countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe, some women are raped in a so-called corrective treatment for homosexual behavior.
Jere Longman reports that FIFA states as part of its mission a desire to use the game in “overcoming social and cultural obstacles for women with the ultimate aim of improving women’s standing in society.” But Joanie Evans, co-president of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association, criticized FIFA for not being as forceful in fighting against homophobia as it has been trying to counter racism in soccer. FIFA said that gender discrimination was strictly prohibited and that violations could result in suspensions or expulsions, but that it could not comment on the Nigeria case because it had received no official information or complaints.
“It’s sad because a lot of Nigerians look at homosexuality almost as a disease,” said Unoma Azuah, a Nigerian-born novelist who teaches literature at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., and has written extensively about the treatment of lesbians and bisexuals in Africa’s most populous nation. “It’s a very harsh environment.”