MEDIA RELEASE. 13/09/2011.
Efe Sodje, Bury and Nigerian defender,-first Professional Football Player to sign up to the Government ‘CHARTER’.
On the eve of the recent 21st birthday celebrations for Manchester Pride, the local LGBT sports teams and organizations gathered to kick off the weekends main events with the annual ‘It’s a Gay Knockout’ at Taurus Bar on Canal St.
This year, ‘loud and proud’ best wishes and a signed football, were sent to those competing from Bury and Nigeria defender Efe Sodje who took time out from his hectic pre-match routine and scheduled commitments to his own charity ‘The Sodje Sports Foundation (which aims to be inspiring and empowering for children and youths, as a result of promoting education through life skills and sport) to be available for a photo opportunity to help raise the awareness of LGBT inclusion in football.
Just a Ball Game? were pleased to join Efe and Senior Executive of Equality-Simone Pound, at the PFA’s Head Quarters in Manchester where Efe became the first professional football player to sign up to the governments, ‘charter for action against homophobia and transphobia in sport’
the charter being initiated as a direct idea and proposal to the GEO at a TUC/Alliance meeting last December.
Efe is well aware ‘’how tuff things will be for the next professional player in football from the UK to ‘come out’ as they continue their playing career’’, and how much ‘’intrusion and unnecessary attention there will be from the press and media’’, and that unfortunately many bigoted supporters will not tolerate the announcement, Efe also thinks ‘’the player will have to be very brave and strong’’.
Efe spoke of how he himself is still subjected to abuse during games from the seemingly uneducated fans in stands and on terraces,(those these may not be the majority) even after all these years of many campaigns and events centered around minority inclusion in football.
Efe believes the fans homophobia would be difficult to deal with, but thinks that from a professional game perspective ‘’the player would be accepted within a dressing room environment, and that team mates he hopes would be supportive.’’
As we are aware football still has a long way to go to even begin to state the game is becoming accepting of any LGBT’s who play, and indeed those who spectate as the game is institutionally homophobic, much work is needed to be done and everyone in the game from the very top, down through to grass roots has to take on some responsibility in dealing with this. The PFA are making small but welcome steps forward down that long road recently producing a poster to be displayed in professional teams dressing rooms, and they continue to be supportive of campaigns work and engage with the activist groups like, just a ball game and the TUC/Alliance group.