An armband bearing the colors of the LGBT rainbow flag has divided football fans - some support Guram Kashia, others demand his expulsion from the team
Guram Kashia, a member of the Dutch football club Vitesse is the center of attention in a large scandal after wearing an armband with the colors of the LGBT rainbow flag. In doing so he demonstrated tolerance and support for sexual minority groups.
“I am in support of freedom and against violence. I support people that don’t hurt others. These are my views,” the 30-year-old footballer said in an interview with a Dutch television station.
The appearance of the Georgian footballer on the field with an LGBT armband has provoked outrage amongst conservative Georgian football fans. Kashia is being criticized on social media for his ‘betrayal’ of Georgian ideals and traditions and many demand his expulsion from the team. The scandal has even made its way onto Georgian news segments and talkshows.
“In my country, it is difficult to explain what is happening, many simply don’t understand, especially football fans. Some people on my Facebook page have criticized [me] but I don’t intend to pay attention to them. I do not regret what I did. I did it with complete responsibility. I am indifferent to who does what or how they live – the main thing is for a person not to harm those that surround him. Otherwise, just be who you really are,” he said in response to the recently-received criticism.
“While Kashia still plays for the team, I won’t set a foot at his matches.”
“Kashia is spreading propaganda for gays.”
“Whatever you do, you can’t forget that you’re a Georgian. You must protect your honor.”
“Kashia should be expelled from Georgian football.”
Such are the comments left by Georgian Facebook users.
But some fans support Guram Kashia, justifying his action.
“Kashia is a real man, respect!”
“Finally, Georgian athletes have begun to set themselves apart by dignified actions.”
“Kashia has made [this] a precedent. All athletes should follow his example. I am completely on the side of Guram.”
These are Guram Kashia’s supporters’ comments.
The newly elected mayor of Tbilisi, former footballer Kakha Kaladze, joined in on the action and announced that one cannot allow for discrimination to take place on the basis of sexual orientation.
“I don’t know who has said what. But I’ll note that in our country and under our administration [Georgian Dream] an anti-discrimination law has been passed. I believe self-expression is a very important freedom. We live in a free, democratic country, and every person has the right to express their views, irrespective of their nationality, creed or sexual orientation,” stated Kakha Kaladze in an interview with Netgazeti.ge.
Guram Kashia has also been supported by the former president of the Football Federation of Georgia, Zviad Sichinava, who says that Guram Kashia is observing the norms of UEFA.
“People must respect one another and act towards one another with love, and they should not humiliate one another because they are not identical,” he wrote on his personal Facebook page.
The current president of the Georgian Football Federation Levan Kobiashvili shared pictures of Kashia on his Facebook and Instagram account.
Georgian football players have also acted in solidarity with Kashia:
“I have known Kasho [nickname] for 15-16 years already. Besides the fact that he is a fantastic player, he is also a wonderful and decent person. Those who criticize him don’t understand that the wearing of such an armband is not propaganda. Any form of aggression is unacceptable – be it sexual orientation, race or sex. Guram expressed solidarity with the LGBT community and with those who have been the victims of aggression. I completely and utterly share Guram’s position,” stated Georgian football player Giorgi Merebashvili.
Tolerance towards minorities is still a problem in Georgia
The introduction of Guram Kashia into the campaign for gay rights is being welcomed by human rights organizations in Georgia. The Movement for Equal Rights positively assesses the brave step of the team captain. In a statement released by the organization, such gestures are important because they can force a large group of football fans to think about the problem, and such actions are even more important in countries such as Georgia where homophobic attitudes are common.
In 2014, as part of its aspiration for EU integration, Georgia passed an anti-discrimination law, which is a rather particular case in the post-Soviet space. But nonetheless, there are still rather strong homophobic tendencies and this is a serious problem for Georgia. Some Georgian politicians and spiritual leaders do not criticize and fight against homophobia, but do the opposite – they incite the tense atmosphere and protect those who are aggressive towards gays.