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Pride march a 'game changer' for Stockholm football clubs

The Local · 31 Jul 2009, 11:29

Published: 31 Jul 2009 11:29 GMT+02:00

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For the first time, two of Stockholm’s professional sports clubs, including representatives from their professional football teams, will participate in Stockholm’s Pride Parade this Saturday.

While many applauded the move, it has also sparked a passionate debate within the male-dominated, masculine arena of Swedish football, and throughout the entire Swedish sports community.

Earlier this spring, AIK, Sweden's largest sports club and the parent organization of a popular professional football team, invited its rival club and football team, Hammarby, to join them in the annual parade. Both clubs announced the landmark decision in the beginning of July.

"We have come to this point after many years of hard work," says Jessica W. Sandberg, press spokesperson for the Stockholm Pride Festival, the largest pride festival in the Nordics.

"Both AIK and Hammarby are making history. Not only are they making an important statement for equal rights for all, but they are challenging many people's attitudes in their own community."

But some football fans, more known to chant, scream, drink alcohol and sometimes illegally shoot off fireworks in stadiums or brawl outside of them, disagree. In recent days discussions on football forums and fan websites have taken on a more serious tone.

Some have responded with overt homophobia, but the majority who are opposed to their clubs' participation argue, at least in public, that it is wrong for sports clubs to get involved in what they consider external affairs that are unrelated to football.

"To participate in a festival that takes a stance on an issue is to make a political statement despite how good or right the question may be," writes Daniel Sundqvist, Chairman of Bajen Fans, on a Hammarby fans' website.

Hammarby board member Henrik Appelqvist disagrees, and says fans who oppose the decision are in the minority.

"This was a political issue once upon a time, but we are way beyond that now. We decided to participate in the Stockholm Pride parade to make a clear statement that Hammarby is open to everyone," he says.

Sweden has a reputation as being one of the most open and liberal societies in the world and has historically been at the forefront in providing rights to homosexual, bisexual and transgendered people.

In the mid-1990s, gay couples were given legal partnership rights. And this April Sweden became the fifth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage. Even the Church of Sweden has said that same-sex couples should be allowed to participate in religious wedding ceremonies. They will make their final decision this October.

However, if you compare the Swedish sports community to the Swedish military, for example, whose soldiers participate in the Stockholm Pride Parade in an official capacity and march openly in uniform, it becomes even more evident that the former has been slow to address homophobia. Only a day before the parade, none of the sports clubs' popular male football players have committed to marching through Stockholm on August 1st.

"In many ways football is the final barrier to break in Sweden when it comes to homophobia, or what I call collective homophobia," says Frank Ågren, Chairman of SFSU, the Swedish Football Supporter's Union. He recently came out in favour of his club's decision to participate in the parade in his weekly newspaper column.

"Most fans wouldn't consider themselves homophobic or anti-gay, but it is still common place to hear fans screaming 'fag' at a game," he says.

Many, like Johan Strömberg, Chairman and President of AIK, have been surprised how controversial the decision has been.

"I can't believe this is such a big question. Now that I see the emotions it has brought up, I am even more convinced that we made the right decision to participate. It is an obvious decision for us to stand up for human rights and equality," he says.

Story continues below…

Despite the controversy, there is no doubt that AIK and Hammarby's support of the Stockholm Pride Festival is a game-changer, an impossible achievement ten years ago and unlikely in most any other country in the world.

"The question now is whether or not this discussion of homophobia in sports will die out or if we are able to grow it and make real change," says Mr. Ågren.

"That real change will come when we can make an impact in the locker rooms, with the players' association and with the younger players."

By Gabriel Stein

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:15 July 31, 2009 by ooh456
This is a big deal. I support gay rights. It's a big step forward. Congratulations. Another great day for Sweden. Homophobia is not any more funny, cute, or justifiable than racism or any other form of discrimination.
08:00 August 1, 2009 by Str8RichandBlack
Been in Sweden for less than 4 weeks and can not beleive what I am seeing. It's sad that the state and the few in the media are validating a depraved lifestyle. Swedes already are seen as unmasculine do they need to walk in a homosexual parade? Western nations are dying.
14:31 August 1, 2009 by Ammaria
This is a wonderful step in the right direction for gay rights. Excellent move from the two big sports actors - you will hopefully set the tone for other sports teams.

To signature Str8RichandBlack - get with the times and the new situation you are in. As a woman who has lived in several different countries, I can only say that there is nothing as masculine as a man who is secure in his sexuality and others' sexuality. A lack of prejudice in a person is of course also a beautiful characteristic. Hopefully you will reconsider your view on both masculinity and homosexuality. You have a lot to learn, best of luck to you.
19:46 August 1, 2009 by bocale1
My compliments to AIK and Hammarby. I hope that their example will be followed by other football clubs. Prejudices on sexual orientation of people is an heritage of the middle age that we need to leave behind.

@Str8RichandBlack, racism and prejudices are depraved states of mind. Intolerance and military machismo are what is killing the entire world. Not the freedom of people of living according their preferences in the respect of each other diversity. Maybe this is the first lesson you should learn in Sweden, even before the local language.
21:04 August 2, 2009 by voiceofreason
I'll like to see some gay parade through Rosengård, and a wedding in the mosque. I trust my muslim (I'm no muslim) brothers to do due justice.

This whole gay charade is just another attempt to cast of restrain and plunge further into depravity. It is not convenient lifestyle because the body is not even designed to work that way (laughs).

Smacks of a mind that as lost control to the body and is now dictated to by the genitals.
07:10 August 3, 2009 by peropaco
I wonder if AIK and Hammarby would lend their support if it was a parade for abused children, battered wives, obese people, asylum seekers, blind people, abused men, constipated teenagers, single mothers, handicapped police officers. Etc. would the gay community support such initiative to have a parade for those other groups?. BTW, Hammarby and AIK suck big time.
10:02 August 7, 2009 by ntimayisi
Gay is for demented people. If gay advocates say everyone has the right to marry, would it be right for a 50 year old man to marry a 11 year old, is it right for a woman to marry a dog or a guy to marry a baboon....isn't all this is just as weird as homosexuality. It's time for people to stand up and deal with this gay stupidity. Let not crazy people continue to destroy the foundations or morality and purity that the world was built on.Homosexualism does not help the healthy and natural propogation of children and families. I am repulsed by AIK and Hammarby for taking part in this disgusting act.

NB:To the author Gabriel, this is your buddy Sam.long time no see.Hope we meet soon to drink some beer.
10:36 August 7, 2009 by Ammaria
@nti mayisi.

How dare you equate homosexuality to marriages between a young girl and a grown man, or even worse when you bring up animal sex in the same context as homosexuality. Animal sex and paedophilia is wrong! One key difference is consensus!!! When two partners agree to marry and it is of no harm to others, and also in the case of homosexuality, sanctioned by law finally, there is nothing wrong with this!!! Love should be blind to irrelevant characteristics such as f.ex color, religion, as well as gender! Why are you threatened by this? Either you are a bigot, or you are just plainly ignorant and insecure!!!

Since I have read other articles by the author of this article, I happen to know that he is an openminded and highly intelligent person who I hope and believe would NEVER share your views. And credit to AIK and Hammarby for finally getting with the times!
11:14 August 7, 2009 by ntimayisi
to ammaria!

why dont't you just share your opinion rather than insulting me.why are you agitated?this forum is for you to share your opinions rather than insults.the fact that you have a different opinoin from me doesn't mean you should insult me.

I have NEVER had any problem with the author of this article.NEVER!!

I just DON'T like homosexualism and i was also appalled by the action of AIK and Hammarby..........and iam entitled that opinion .

12:22 August 7, 2009 by Str8RichandBlack

Your comment is laden with emotionalism and lacking any common sense or logic. Homosexuals arounnd the globe should be tolerated but not validated. Indeed, not all males can become men nor females can become women. However, what homosexuals in Western nations are attempting is to normalized their behavior, and I for one will not hide my head because homosexuals threaten to call me homophobic or insecure. Indeed it is them that is insecure about their own gender that leads them to mimic the opposite of what they are. Deal with the fact, that homosexuality is akin to having sex outside the "natural" Human norm, and thus should be equated with other depraved sexual acts. Tack!
15:21 August 7, 2009 by Ammaria
Homosexuality should not just be tolerated, it should be celebrated!

It is NOT ok to equate homosexuality with the practices of paedophilia or animal sex.

What do you mean by "not all males can become men...cont'd..."

Stop calling homosexuality a depraved sexual act! How can I not become emotional when you are deeply insulting a 10th of the population. That is not ok. Just like racism and other types of bigotry is not ok either.

Tack :)
20:38 August 7, 2009 by voiceofreason
Did you say 10%, I am yet to meet an Homo since the last one I beat up in High School for violating a junior student (more than 10 years ago).

Homos are just a very minute percentage of the population who surrendered their brain to their $ex organs.

What beats my imagination is the amount of noise they are able to make. However I am not surprised because they have support in Hollywood and amond the media. The noise sells so they make a hell of it.
11:18 August 8, 2009 by Ammaria
Wow...Voice of Reason. Maybe you should be called Fist of Reason.

I guarantee that you meet homosexual people every day without knowing it, hmmm they look just like you and me, can you believe it (sarcasm :))?

I wonder why can't you just let people be to live their lives in peace? What are you scared of? Let gay people make noise like straight people make noise all the time!

Have a good weekend :)
15:24 August 8, 2009 by jonathanjames61
Oh My Goooooooooooooood,I hope you are seeing what your

children are up to,Dont they look arround them and see creation is made up of Male and Femal,D+D=Distruction,V+V=Vanity,While D+V= Divine,So while try to alter nature for Gods sake,Now I believe my olds mans saying that the white mans world is full of Danger,my son you must be very carefull,or else you may see wrong becomming right and right becomming wrong all in the name of freedom and Liberty,I can see clearly now in Sweden that is Happening.
18:34 August 17, 2009 by Kanousei
Despite some of the toxic comments above, I wish to express my admiration for both teams and their forward-thinking. As an American, I am continually impressed with Sweden in matters ranging from gender equality and gay rights to the laudable health care system and attitudes toward foreign aid.

I cannot imagine such a display of support from a major "masculine" organization in my country. Sweden gives me hope by acting as a model for a more evolved society in this and so many other respects. Bless you all!
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