With next Wednesday being the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, this past weekend’s round of Ligue 1 games saw players across the matches wear shirts with rainbow numbers, while managers and captains wore rainbow armbands.
Nevertheless, the league-wide campaign against homophobia was not to everyone’s liking – notably, a group of Toulouse players and Nantes striker Mostafa Mohamed sat out Sunday’s game between the two teams over their objection to wearing a shirt with a rainbow pattern.
Zakaria Aboukhlal was among the players sidelined by Toulouse, and the forward has released a statement on social media to try to justify his decision. Although he explains that he holds “the highest regard for every individual regardless of their personal preferences, gender, religion, or background”, he adds that as a result of his personal beliefs, he is not “the most suitable person to participate in this campaign”.
“Respect is a value that I hold in great esteem. It extends to others, but it also encompasses for my own personal beliefs.”
Egypt international striker Mohamed has made a statement of his own, also outling his “respect for all differences, all beliefs and all convictions”. Like Aboukhlal, the 25-year-old argues that that respect “extends to others but also includes respecting my personal beliefs”. “Given my roots, my culture, the importance of my convictions and beliefs, it was not possible for me to take part in this campaign”.
On Monday morning, the players’ union, the UNFP, has indicated that although they stand against homophobia, they will not comment on individual cases of players refusing to wear the rainbow shirt.