Friday, October 16, 2009

Paris Foot Gay & Creteil Bebel: Homophobia Extraordinary and Ordinary

Last week, Creteil Bebel, an amateur French team, refused to play a league match against Paris Foot Gay - citing a range of reasons, all homophobic. They have since agreed to take the field against PFG, after they were threatened with being banned from the league and made national headlines in France as the homophobic Muslim team (the manager cited the fact that players on his team were "practicing Muslims" to explain the refusal).

I have a couple of thoughts about this interesting story.

1. Paris Foot Gay fields Muslim players, so the impulse to characterize this as a problem between a gay team and a Muslim team is off base, even given the manager's moronic statement. Better to characterize it as a conflict between a gay team, and a homophobic team. Islamophobia is a big part of French culture - supported in part by the representation of Muslims (and Arabs more generally) as backwards women-hating, homophobic fundamentalists. As a gay team with an anti-racist policy (and a multicultural roster), PFG knows this and has been smarter about this issue in its statements than has been the French press (at least as represented by the television broadcasts I could access on youtube).

2. Creteil Bebel has come around, and explained that their objection was less to the fact that PFG is gay, than to the fact that "Gay" is in their name - that they advertise themselves as a political team. Some bloggers are confused by this - in part because it's a load of bull, given the manager's earlier statements. But this is in fact a pretty common reaction to the words "gay" and "lesbian". Just saying them can be a political act. And in the space of football, it is - PFG identifies itself as a gay team in order to both advertise itself as an anti-homophobic team (which gay players may prefer) and also to raise awareness and combat homophobia within the leagues.

3. Somehow the way this story was reported bugged me: Smug media bulletins about this, as if suddenly sports editors care about homophobia - when those very same media outlets ignore an entire sport (women's soccer) because of its own sexism and homophobia. I could be wrong, but I suspect the only reason we are hearing about this is because PFG is an activist team and would have responded to this with a press release. Which is good - it shows you just how much one well-funded, savvy team can accomplish.

Anyway, hooray to PFG for opening up dialogue with a phobic team, and forwarding conversation about the issue within the French leagues. And I'm glad Creteil Bebel changed their minds. Let's hope they have a good game. And sack their manager.

Footnote: Paris Foot Gay is partly sponsored by Agnès B.


  1. I accept the idea that there is homophobia in French culture but there is also some justification in it being an anti-gay Muslim issue. Most Islamic men do not have the acceptance of homosexuality that many non-religious Westerners do. That is a cultural thing. That issue has to be addressed as well. The problem is that people, media included, could make it an excuse to target Islam when their own attituudes are not exactly enlightened, I agree on that. But we can't be afraid to criticize things we don't like other cultures too. Always interesting to read.

  2. If only we had such activism here in the States...

  3. Hi Nick,

    I am not sure I am reading your comment right (been working 80 hour weeks of late - bleary eyed). But: Islam somehow less tolerant of homosexuality than Christianity? It's a big world, and there is a very big range of Islamic denominations, communities with really different histories vis a vis things like sexuality and gender. I wouldn't say men of one religious background are more or less prone to homophobia. Depends on the men we are talking about...

    Gustavo: You know, if we had something like a nationally organized amateur soccer league (with a visible, organic relationship with the pro league), we might. I think that the dispersal of amateur soccer, its decenteredness, means that we aren't as aware of such efforts, because they are very local. I do know the LA Lesbian & Gay Center has some teams playing locally, and I believe they are actually talking with Chivas about a "day out" at Chivas? But no, I don't know of anything in Southern California quite like Paris Foot Gay, with their Agnes B sponsor & the support of Vikash Dhorasoo.

    My old team, Hackney Women's FC is like PFG - but they got on the ball in the 1980s - and helped change the culture of the leagues in London....

  4. This is one of those intersectionality buzz points - on the one hand, I totally agree that Islam has different sects and interpretations AND anti-muslim overreactionism is rampant. On the other hand, this particular club seems to espouse a homophobic brand of Islam. And activists should not fear calling them out on it

  5. Hi Elliott,

    Thanks for putting it better that I did in the post.

    I was reacting more to a French news broadcast in which one anchor said of Creteil Bebel that they were not espousing "the values of the republic" - that bugged me, as it just seemed easier for the sports/news media to take the anti-homophobic position in relation a homophobic brand of Islam - and then act like they were doing so in the name of France.

  6. At least taking the anti-homophobic position is now the easy way for mainstream media; it hasn´t always been that way unfortunately.

  7. as far as i know, the Bebel team has been kicked out the Amateur League for this refusal. They can't compete anymore.
    best regards from Paris

  8. I wasn't sure where to post this, but I thought this would be as relevant a place as any. I just wanted to make sure you saw this article:

    A truly hopeful and encouraging development in sports.

  9. Actually there's not much homophobia in France. And that ad means, "Homophobia Red Card" in French.


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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