The national football associations of Belgium, England, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Northern-Ireland, Scotland and Turkey, and the UEFA and FARE were present at The European Diversity Statement event in the Amsterdam ArenA last month.
With the signing of this declaration of intent, an initiative of Heroes of Football, they commit to cooperation on a European level to achieve the complete acceptance of homosexuality in football. Another eight associations indicate that they will support the project.
This special event in the Amsterdam Arena was hosted by the Royal Dutch Football Association KNVB. President Michael van Praag explained his intrinsic motivation to achieve equality in football: “Eight years ago I became president of the KNVB and was shocked by the personal stories I heard. Especially in men's soccer, homosexuality is a big taboo. Perhaps even worse - Even in youth football not everyone dares to truly be themselves. That 50% of homosexual youth has contemplated suicide is something that deeply saddens me. As football associations we should not accept this and solve this problem together!”
Frans Timmermans, first Vice-President of the European Union, was also present at the signing of the statement: “Coming out is a personal choice, but it is intolerable that some do not even dare because of football culture! Now is the time we need “Heroes” that are not afraid to show their true colours. We must use the incredible power of football to respect every kind of sexuality. There is a sense of urgency, as football is not keeping up with the times. Football has me as an ally to tackle this problem. It is our collective duty!”
Karin Blankenstein, President of the John Blankenstein Foundation and one of the initiators of Heroes of Football: “Football players still stop playing because of their sexual orientation. That is why we founded Heroes of Football. To make football a sport where everyone feels at home, where everyone can be seen and you are always part of the team. It is time to make diversity and inclusion your own!”
Before the football associations signed the declaration of intent, a seminar was organized on the theme. The seminar was also attended by the Spanish referee Jesus Tomillero: “I stopped working as a referee because I received death threats on a daily basis, but I do not want to give up. The Spanish football association has no place for me, but how is that still possible in this century? Michael van Praag immediately responded to this: “I have a meeting with my Spanish colleagues on December 12, and I will force them to do something about this!”
Heroes of Football is a European initiative to ensure that everyone who loves football or plays it can experiencing uninterrupted fun and can be completely true to themselves, regardless of his or her sexual orientation. Jesus Tomillero is the first member of the Heroes of Football team. Amateur player Danillo Verboom was introduced as the second member of the Heroes of Football team. “I cannot change who I am, and I do not want to change who I am. Nobody should require that of me. We need everyone and each football association to make homosexuality in sports normal.