Paris Foot Gay once again shows that it’s not very interested in gays
Typically there are only a small number of kinds of opponents to the Gay Games and to LGBT sport. Among the most disturbing are those in our community (almost always gay men) who complain about a “gay-only” event, despite the fact that the Gay Games are open to all. Oddly enough, they often react this way in comments on gay websites. Apparently it’s OK to have a gay website, but not a gay-friendly sporting event.
But there are a few outliers among the opponents who don’t fit in a box. Paris Foot Gay is one of them. A hybrid of an advocacy group and a football club, it has had success in raising awareness about homophobia in football. To carry out its mission, the advocacy wing receives substantial support, in particular from governments, despite questions about the nature of the organization and the use of its funds.
There are also questions about the club branch of the organization, with gay players on the club, which prides itself on being mixed, feeling excluded. A large number of them have founded their own club, the Panamboyz, and joined FGG member organization FSGL.
PFG has resolutely remained outside of LGBT sport groups and events, and plays mostly (or only) against mainstream teams (although the same is true of most FSGL clubs). At events like Eurogames or Gay Games, the players at the heart of the PFG have joined players from FSGL club FC Paris Arc en Ciel to round out teams, and can now be expected to be more visible on their own.
Today public news radio channel France Info invited the trainer for PFG, Brahim Naït Balk, to speak on the topic of homophobia in sport on the occasion of the launch of a campaign by SOS Homophobia and others, including FSGL to fight homophobia in sport. One might think that the radio would invite one of the organizations involved in the campaign to speak about it, but after name dropping SOS Homophobia, they instead chose to speak with PFG, a group that insists on working solo. So be it. We don’t really understand the choices made by many journalists.
What concerns us in this interview were Mr Naît Balk’s comments on the Gay Games (our translation):
A few days ago, we learned that the Gay Games will be organized in 2018 in Paris, the gay Olympic games. There are many sports that will be held. If there are so many athletes who join gay clubs, it’s because there’s a problem in mainstream structures. [… The Gay Games] I think they close people in. We need to get out of that. Paris Foot Gay won’t participate in the Gay Games. Thee are other football teams in the region and the country that will participate in this competition. Because Paris Foot Gay, the club, simply wants to get out of that. What’s important today is that gay footballers must be visible in mainsteam structures and clubs. I fear that it makes more of a ghetto, this type of competition. We need to get out, but at the same time, a gay athlete, if he wants to be truly free, is required to join these associations or remain in the closet.
First, we deplore the use of the term “gay Olympic games”. Not just because of the Gay Games’ history with this name, but because it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Gay Games are. The Gay Games are not for the best gay athletes: they’re for everyone, unlike the Olympics themselves, which are reserved for a tiny elite. When mainstream journalists make this error, it’s bad enough. When a person commenting as an expert on homophobia in sport makes it, it is very unfortunate and surprising.
Five years before the event, the club’s trainer has already determined that the club won’t participate. Registration won’t be open for another year, but PFG has already decided for its players (who in fact will probably participate, just not under the club’s name).
Naït Balk repeatedly speaks of “this” and “that”, and the need to “get out of this and that”. We’re not sure what that means. Does that mean he wants to do away with LGBT sport? A very odd statement for a club that has built its reputation on the word “gay”. Yes, gay players must be visible in all clubs. And the FSGL, FC Paris Arc en Ciel, and the FGG all work toward this goal. And “gay” clubs like FC Paris Arc en Ciel play each week alongside straight teammates and against mainstream clubs. PFG may be proud to avoid LGBT competitions. But FSGL clubs demonstrate that one can play in LGBT events AND in mainstream sport, which is in fact the best way to fight homophobia in other clubs.
More important, it is odd that a club devoted to fighitng discrimination should behave in such a discriminatory fashion. Why refuse to play against gays? You would play in an mainstream event, you play in gala matches, you’d likely play in any other community-based event, but it’s out of the question to play in an LGBT event? This seems shortsighted.
In any case, Brahim is a great guy, and PFG defends a great cause, and will always be welcome at the Gay Games. We urge the club to think again in the months before registration opens, and to perhaps even consider registering for the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland+Akron.
And of course, we support the efforts of the FSGL to obtain airtime on France Info to respond to Mr Naît Balk.