A Football Report: By Soraya Soemadiredja.
Eudy Simelane was a well respected midfielder and captain of the South African women’s national soccer team, Banyana Banyana, passionate about the game. She was also gay and that’s why she was murdered. On the 28th of April 2008, at the age of 31 she was gang-rapped and stabbed while being subjected to “corrective rape”. Simelane’s teammate from the Tsakane Ladies football club, Girlie “S’gelane” Nkosi, aged 37, a lesbian activist actively fighting against hate crimes, was stabbed and murdered a year later in Kwa-Thema, where they were both from.
“Corrective rape” is an attempt to punish and change somebody’s sexuality through rape. Horrible events like this is by no means isolated solely to South Africa. Discrimination and hate crime towards gays and lesbians is a world wide problem. But in South Africa, according to ESPN who researched and reported the story in the video above, “a disproportionate number of female athletes have been victims, if only because more are openly gay as Simelane was”.
These two women were not the only victims of “corrective rape” by far, nor were female athletes the only target. Nor is this recent news. But, it is interesting the timing of the ESPN documentary with the World Cup, released last week. We don’t want to take away from the enormous accomplishment that is South Africa hosting the world’s biggest tournament, but if football is the world’s game, then we have always reflected the world’s problems within. We have to admit that, while there is a growing appreciation for women’s football and women in football, there is still many who hold the perception that this is a man’s sport.
The problem that this documentary touches upon hits home to many athletes world wide, and for those of us who believe in the healing power of football, there’s a lot to be said for FIFA to make a statement about this, at the very least showing that it concerns them as much as it concerns football players. “From a Left Wing”:
What if, oh, say, FIFA saw these horrible attacks as crimes against their own athletes – and stepped in – especially as the World Cup will be hosted by South Africa this coming summer. Imagine if the footballing gods – no doubt worshiped by some of the men committing these attacks – publicly and loudly denounced all forms of homophobia? The English FA is trying to wrap its mind around such a thing. What about football’s international governing body?
Imagine posters of Eto’o, C. Ronaldo, Lampard, or Henry declaring “Simelane was my sister.”
Do you think we’ll be left imagining for a long while yet?