French league footballers refuse to wear rainbow-coloured jerseys

Some players elect to miss matches in France’s top league to avoid wearing multicoloured numbers.

French football rainbow armband
A French football league official wears an armband with the rainbow LGBTQ flag during the French League 1 football match between Stade Brestois 29 (Brest) and AJ Auxerre at Stade Francis-Le Ble in Brest, western France[Damien Meyer/AFP]

France’s top football league has been caught up in a storm of controversy after several players refused to take part in a gesture of support for the LGBTQ community at the weekend.

The French Professional League, the domestic football governing body, had called for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 players to wear shirts with rainbow-coloured numbers at this weekend’s matches ahead of Wednesday’s International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. But some players refused to do so.

The National Union of Professional Footballers said it was not up to the players to convey “collective messages”. It said in a statement it was astonished that clubs should ask them to do so.

Toulouse left out the players who did not want to wear the shirts. But the club’s Moroccan defender Zakaria Aboukhlal defended his choice not to take part in the campaign.

“Respect is a value that I hold in great esteem. It extends to others, but it also encompasses respect for my own personal beliefs. Hence, I don’t believe I am the most suitable person to participate in this campaign,” he wrote on Twitter.

Schedule of campaign questioned

Stade Brestois coach Eric Roy called the gesture “catastrophic”, a comment that drew widespread criticism on social media.

“You can see that there are players who have a problem with it. Everyone is free to express their opinions. Personally, I have no problem with it. But there are players who may have a problem with it,” he said.

He also said it was wrong to schedule the campaign at a time when players are fighting to avoid relegation.

His Stade Rennais counterpart Bruno Genesio said that while he was against any kind of discrimination, he was “not sure it was a good idea to organise a day against homophobia”.

Nantes’s Mostafa Mohamed was also omitted from the teamsheet for the 0-0 draw against Toulouse for the same reason.

He said he did not want to “get into an argument” but wanted to clarify his position.

“Given my roots, my culture, the importance of my convictions and beliefs, it was not possible for me to participate in this campaign,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I hope that my decision will be respected as well as my wish not to argue about this and that everyone is treated with respect,” he said.

Guingamp’s Senegalese defender Donatien Gomis reportedly ruled himself out of the Ligue 2 clash with Sochaux on Saturday for the same reason.

Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera weighed in on the controversy in support of the campaign.

“I think it is the responsibility of the clubs to take sanctions,” she said. “During such an operation, which involves all the clubs on the basic subject of non-discrimination, you have to show up.”

She said on Twitter: “Gay or straight, we all wear the same shirt. In the French football championship, everyone should rally behind such a simple message of living together and non-discrimination.”

Source: News Agencies