Homophobia in Eastern Europe? Never! And homophobia in sports? That's even rarer! I'm hoping my sarcasm is bleeding through by now. If not, I'll try and be more transparent next time.
The President of the Croation Football Federation said last week that no gay players will represent his federation during his time as the head honcho of football in Croatia. And when asked if he had ever met a gay player, Vlatko Markovic upped the offensiveness even further. His response? “Luckily, only normal people play football.”
The Professional Supporters' Association, the English football players' union, denounced the remarks with a campaign. “This is quite clearly a discrimination issue," said Simone Pound, the PSA's senior executive on equality issues. "Regardless of your sexuality, color or creed, gender age or ability the game should be enjoyed by everyone.” And the game does indeed seem to be enjoyed by gay and lesbian folks. The Gay Football Supporters Network also condemned Markovic’s views, adding that football’s European governing body should act.
“We wonder what he means by normal? It is normal to be gay, it is normal to like football, it is normal to be gay and like football," Chris Basiurski, the GFSN’s chairperson, said at the time. "We will be most interested to see Uefa’s response to his comments and hope that it will apply the same standards that it would had Mr. Markovic had questioned whether black or Asian players were not ‘normal’.” For what it is worth, Markovic offered an apology, probably because he is running for a fourth term in office. He, apparently, is “sorry that my comments have been in any way misinterpreted … My intention was in no way to insult or offend anyone … I have absolutely nothing against members of any minority, especially not against those of homosexual orientation.”
Now, tell me this, how does one misinterpret being called abnormal? And, if Markovic "especially" has nothing against gays, then why would he not allow any homosexuals to play on the national team during his tenure? These are both good questions, I believe. Sadly, we won't soon know the answers. When asked about his comments at a public hearing, Markovic was clear on the fact that he has very little to add.
"You can write it down," he said. "I'm fucking sick of you reporters."