Swedish footballers fly the flag for gay rights
The Local · 9 Mar 2016, 16:17
Published: 09 Mar 2016 14:57 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Mar 2016 16:17 GMT+01:00
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Swedish champions FC Rosengård, one of the most successful women's football clubs in Sweden, have stitched a rainbow flag to the back of their new jerseys in a bid to boost equality and tolerance.
But the team revealed that European football association bosses at the UEFA headquarters initially refused their request on the grounds of the Pride banner not being a national flag.
“I wrote to them in a pretty kind tone and probably argued well. Eventually they replied that they could not approve it according to their statutes, but that they also saw no reason to prevent it,” the club's chief executive officer Klas Tjebbes told the regional Sydsvenskan newspaper.
The move follows in the footsteps of Kiruna's Ice Hockey club in northern Sweden, which told The Local last summer about how they became the first Swedish sports club to wear Pride colours on their jerseys.
“Having the rainbow flag on our shirts is a good symbol which illustrates our openness as a club. That we are welcoming to all people, of different backgrounds and different identities,” Anita Asante, a British footballer for FC Rosengård, told Swedish media when the new kit was revealed.
Club officials were unable to immediately comment when approached by The Local, but fans took to social media earlier this week to praise the initiative.
One of Sweden's most successful teams, FC Rosengård have won the Swedish women's league 10 times. The men's side play in one of the lower leagues, Division 2, but are on the other hand famous for being the starting ground for Sweden's top footballer of all time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The club first joined the fight against homophobia in 2014 when it replaced its usual corner flags on the pitch with the Pride banner. It is set to next face Linköpings FC in Sweden on March 16th, and FFC Frankfurt on March 23rd as the only Swedish team left in the Champions League.
Campaign group ILGA-Europe recently rated Sweden the top spot in Scandinavia for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTQ). However, only a handful of sports stars have come out as gay in the past few years, among them Swedish skiing legend Anja Pärson and footballer Anton Hysén.