‘More inclusive culture a win for football’

Anti-LGBT+ language can “inhibit people from being 100 per cent themselves”, Chelsea’s Anita Asante tells FA panel discussion

Last Updated: 03/07/20 11:53pm

Anita Asante says greater understanding of diverse experiences would help coaches get more out of their players who are LGBT+

Anita Asante says greater understanding of diverse experiences would help coaches get more out of their players who are LGBT+

Anita Asante says greater understanding of diverse experiences would help coaches get more out of their players who are LGBT+

Chelsea and England’s Anita Asante believes football would benefit from having a more open culture in which self-expression is respected and valued.

Asante was speaking as part of a Football Association panel discussion to mark the end of Pride season.

Wembley Stadium was lit up in the Pride flag colours earlier this week Wembley Stadium was lit up in the Pride flag colours earlier this week

Wembley Stadium was lit up in the Pride flag colours earlier this week

The centre-back, who is also a member of the Fifpro Global Player Council, feels the game is still struggling to move on from a ‘generational’ problem with homophobia, and believes governing bodies and clubs would be wise to encourage a greater understanding among both players and fans about the diverse experiences of LGBT+ people.

“I think within clubs, [that means] not tolerating it if the player culture environment is one of bullying or belittling or undermining people because of their sexuality, and that’s related to coaches and backroom staff as well,” said Asante.

“Football probably hasn’t done enough in those areas to try and make the environment secure [for LGBT+ players] and open to talking about acceptance, while recognising why they’re all there as athletes – because they’re good enough, they’re committed and they give 100 per cent.”

Asante was joined on the panel by the FA’s diversity and inclusion officer Jehmeil Lemonius, QPR’s head of coaching Chris Ramsey, the broadcaster and journalist Nicky Bandini, and Stonewall’s director of sport Robbie de Santos.

Asante (bottom centre) was part of an FA panel discussion to mark the conclusion of Pride Month Asante (bottom centre) was part of an FA panel discussion to mark the conclusion of Pride Month

Asante (bottom centre) was part of an FA panel discussion to mark the conclusion of Pride Month

The 35-year-old, who has won 70 international caps for the Lionesses, feels the damaging effect that anti-LGBT language and behaviour has on members of the community is still often overlooked in the game.

“What are the checks and balances within the culture, within clubs, within governing bodies, to really make sure that individuals are protected, related to this issue?” she added.

“If [players] come to you and say, ‘by the way, I can’t handle the language that often is masked in banter, it is affecting me as an individual’… and it sometimes affects those individuals’ performances as well, so it is a big issue.

“These are the things that inhibit people from being 100 per cent themselves, off the pitch, and on the pitch sometimes. I think that’s crucial for football to think about too.

Asante and her girlfriend Beth Fisher recently spoke to Sky Sports to mark Lesbian Visibility Week Asante and her girlfriend Beth Fisher recently spoke to Sky Sports to mark Lesbian Visibility Week

Asante and her girlfriend Beth Fisher recently spoke to Sky Sports to mark Lesbian Visibility Week

“Because sometimes they might even see their own players within a pre-season doing really well, and then it comes to the matches and something significant has changed in their performance or in their behaviour.

“It could be related to the journeys that we talk about, when you’re going through your own sexual identity or gender identity questions. People should be free to have these discussions, to support players and understand.

“Actually, is it just performance and training that maybe is affecting this individual, or is it things outside that are also contributing to that?”

You can watch the FA’s panel discussion on LGBT+ issues in football in full here.

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