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Jock Talk: Predictable violence attends World Cup

by Roger Brigham

Mexico players celebrate their stunning 1-0 victory over defending World Cup champion Germany Sunday in Moscow. Photo: Courtesy AP
Mexico players celebrate their stunning 1-0 victory over defending World Cup champion Germany Sunday in Moscow. Photo: Courtesy AP  

Russia celebrated being awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics, which are supposed to bring together people from across the globe in unity and acceptance, by passing laws that banned any supportive statements about gays and lesbians - a move officials said was not anti-gay but rather protective of children, but which has done nothing demonstrable to protect kids and has emboldened citizens to double their level of hate crimes.

Now it is hosting the World Cup of men's soccer, saying in advance that gay and lesbian fans would be tolerated and accepted, but immediately showing that shit hasn't changed.

Just before the cup began last week, organizers of the Diversity House, a safe zone for fans of diverse ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations, were told they would have to abandon the building in St. Petersburg that had been designated to host the zone.

Similar political acts have been used previously to hurt LGBT awareness and acceptance.

"They recognize it as the method through which the city authorities shut down activities which do not conform to their political outlook," said Piara Powar, director of the international anti-discrimination network FARE in charge of the project.

Powar called it a "political attack of the kind that shows how debates about human rights are curtailed by powerful conservative political forces in Russia."

Diversity House was moved to a new location in the city center and has been hosting visitors.

Even before the first kickoff, two gay Frenchmen were beaten and robbed after catching a ride. Their phones and wallets were taken and one of the men was hospitalized with severe head and brain injuries.

I would say that two men were reportedly arrested for the attack, but "reportedly" may not be the right word - at least not in Russia. Government authorities there issued orders earlier this month to police departments to censor their crime reports during the cup.

So if you get assaulted in Russia during the World Cup and the cops don't report it, do you still bleed? I'm asking for a friend.

During Mexico's stunning 1-0 victory over tournament favorite Germany in the opening round Sunday, the Mexican fans, as they are wont to do but have been repeatedly warned not to do, chanted the homophobic slur "puto" - not to be confused with the equally derogatory Russian term "putin," which stands for "read Hillary's emails and take command of presidential elections."

FIFA said this week it would "investigate" the fan misbehavior this week, but let's be real: nothing of substance will happen on this. Maybe fines against the team if we're lucky, but none of the more extreme measures at the association's discretion. FIFA has been pretty aggressive about eliminating racist behavior and taunts from crowds, hitting the clubs with fines or suspensions or forcing them to play without crowds in the stands, but it has been reluctant to act against homophobic activity equally, even though its policies say it should.

Showing their obtuseness and insensitivity, some soccer officials have even argued that the term, which literally refers to a male prostitute, "insults" but does not "offend."

Excuse me?

In the end, this is the event from which FIFA makes a ton of money and depends upon to justify its very existence. It is a commercial event and FIFA will not risk a dollar or a peso or a ruble of it to take a stand to defend its own principles or its own fans. Not only will this act not be treated decisively, it will barely be reported.

Contact the columnist at jocktalkroger@yahoo.com.

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