The Bijeli Anðeli, a fan group of NK Zagreb planned to participate at and contribute to the International Day Against Homophobia on 19 February 2010. They prepared some actions, amongst others a banner saying “With Football Against Homophobia” and a Rainbow Flag for the match. They also asked the club’s and media’s support to promote their activities.
But instead of support they faced several difficulties and obstacles. Amongst others until match day the club did not approve their banners, and after the match one could read on the club’s official website about the actions of the Bijeli Anðeli as “the unsuccessful effort of certain organizations to bring matters unrelated to football to stadiums.”
Bijeli Anðeli turned to FARE for assistance. FARE addressed a letter of support to the directorate of the NK Zagreb, stating that the network fully supports the fan group’s activities, sent them UEFA’s Guide for Clubs – Tackling Racism in Football which also contains the five-point plan against homophobia elaborated by EGLSF (The European Gay and Lesbian Sort Federation) and welcomed the club to participate in the next FARE Action Week which will put a focus on fighting homophobia. Additionally FARE is fully in line with FSE’s (Football Supporters Europe) letter of support for the activities of the Bijeli Anðeli in which they state:
We’d like to call upon NK Zagreb to show, by proactively supporting such initiatives like the initiative of Bijeli Anđeli that you are committed to raising awareness of these problems in football and are want to see action taken for the sake of creating a better and even more enjoyable football for all. Especially in view of the opposition that fans’ groups like Bijeli Anđeli face for their positive activities from fans’ groups even in their own city, any support provided by the club is to be considered even more important.
Read the report by Bijeli Anðeli on their activities and the reaction of their club:
“Determined to react to the hatred and violence that flourish in Croatian stadiums and greatly inspired by the efforts of FARE and other international organizations and supporter groups in promoting tolerance in football, we have decided to make a contribution by organizing an event for International day against homophobia in football, February 19th. We have made contacts with some of Croatian civil right groups and picked the home game of our club, NK Zagreb, against HNK Rijeka for the promotion of the international action.
For the game we prepared a banner saying “With football against homophobia”, and have put up two large flags, our supporter's group flag and rainbow flag representing civil rights activists. We wanted to have our club's and media support in helping to promote the action, but have been put down in our efforts from the beginning.
We have contacted the club and asked for their permission to stage the action on our match day (as was required by the police), and asked them to help promote the initiative. The first big obstacle was the club's silence and the refusal to give us the approval until the last day before the intended event was to take place. Even then, the club did not offer any help and demanded our explanation on why they were put in the position to be the club to host the initiative. The thing that enraged us most was the club's reaction to the event. In the only public mention of the action by the club, in the match report on the club's official website, it was characterized as “the unsuccessful effort of certain organizations to bring matters unrelated to football to stadiums”.
Having been used to ever increasing threats by other supporters groups and far right groups, having already witnessed distorted media coverage of our events (in the specific case most media amusingly mentioned opposing supporters banner: “Go cure yourself”, without mentioning the international effort to fight all discrimination and intolerance which the action was part of), despite being used to all of it, we were appalled by the close-mindedness of our own club and it's refusal to back up the action.
We would like to state that our vision of discrimination free stadiums in Croatia has not been challenged, and our determination to make an effort has only been approved by these difficulties. We would also like to thank many of our international friends who have recognized our work and have backed us up.”
(© Bijeli Anðeli)
If you want to know more about their actions you can contact them at white.angles.zagreb[at]gmail.com
The Justin Campaign also supports the activities of the Bijeli Anðeli
Darren Ollerton, the Campaigns Director of the Justing Campaign:
The Justin Campaign are delighted that The White Angels of NK Zagreb had the courage and bravery to so publicly observe Football v Homophobia on February 19th at their local football ground. It is the bravery of groups like this that ensure that homophobia in football receives the attention that it deserves.”
The launch of Football v Homophobia this year served as proof that homophobia in football is not just a problem experienced throughout Europe but is an issue that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgendered) community experience globally. It will take the combined efforts, skills and resources of footballs governing bodies, individual football clubs, campaigning organisations and community groups like The White Angels to bring about much needed change in a much loved game. The Justin Campaign are overjoyed that the annual initiative Football v Homophobia will be instrumental in this process.
For more information on the activities of The Justin Campain turn to their website: http://www.thejustincampaign.com