Ahead of its new campaign, Italy’s LGBT rights association has requested a meeting with a top Serie A club after summer signing Josip Brekalo’s previous criticism of the rainbow armband, citing ‘Christian values’ as his motive.
Croatian winger Brekalo agreed terms with Torino recently, but three years ago, while playing for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, he reportedly acted with disapproval when they supported a gay rights campaign with a particular focus on those who attend football matches.
This entailed the team’s captains from youth to senior level wearing a rainbow armband, with Brekalo also accused of ‘liking’ several homophobic comments on social media under a club post made featuring skipper Josuha Guilavogui, and later blaming it on a mobile phone malfunction.
“I would never say something like this. It’s obviously a problem with my phone,” he had protested.
Wolfsburg’s Josip Brekalo on his team captain wearing a rainbow armband: I can’t stand behind this because it’s against my Christian belief, I was raised very religiously. If people choose another way of life, I’m okay with that but I don’t want nor need a special symbol for that pic.twitter.com/nPzvFCGd3n
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) August 26, 2018
Brekalo cited his ‘Christian values’ as the reason for such reluctance.
“I was raised very religiously, so if someone chooses a different way of life, that’s okay with me because that’s their thing, but I do not have to and do not want to wear a special symbol for someone else, which opposes my Christian worldview,” he stressed.
Given his switch from Wolfsburg to Juventus’ cross-city rivals in the recently-closed transfer window, as part of a loan deal with an option to buy, his comments have resurfaced online.
More specifically, they have caught the attention of the secretary of Italy’s LGBTQ+ rights association Marco Arlati, who has requested a meeting with his new employer to address the matter.
“We want to relaunch the project ‘Italy takes to the field against homophobia’ in October and Brekalo’s arrival in Serie A is the best opportunity to resume promoting diversity in football, where the issue remains a taboo, despite the many steps forward we have made,” Arlati explained to Tuttosport.
“Other sports in Italy are a little more advanced in that sense, with Paola Egonu and Lucilla Boari at the Olympics this summer. We are ready to meet Brekalo, the coach and directors of Torino.
“I don’t think Brekalo is homophobic or intended to support extremist positions: quite simply, his Catholic upbringing was not based on knowing or welcoming diversity,” conceded Arlati, who appears open to discussing the furor in a cordial manner.
“Certain positions clash with the reality of today, starting from sport as a vehicle for civil rights issues,” he finished.
With an openly gay footballer yet to come out in the Serie A, Sampdoria’s Albin Ekdal confessed last year that there are many closeted homosexuals in the game who remain as such due to a fear of being ridiculed.
Back in England, after fans of his team Liverpool called Scottish international Billy Gilmour a “Chelsea rent boy” on the opening day of the new season due to his loan move to Norwich, manager Jurgen Klopp branded them “idiots”.