An anti-homophobia campaign in support of Georgian footballer and vice-captain of the National Football Team, Guram Kashia kicked off in social networks on August 28.
The campaign was unleashed following hateful and threatening comments against Kashia on Facebook, that prompted him to delete his official Facebook account, and to limit his Instagram stream only for subscribers.
Kashia became the focus on homophobic campaign following the August 22 decision of UEFA to award him for his “courageous public stand for equality” for displaying a rainbow armband in support of LGBT community whilst playing for Dutch top-division outfit SBV Vitesse. His decision caused the first wave of hate attacks in Georgia last year. The UEFA award is to be presented at the UEFA Champions’ League group stage draw and gala in Monaco on 30 August.
“It is a huge achievement for me, my family and my country. I will always stand on the side of equality either on the pitch or outside,” the Georgian footballer said.
Following the UEFA announcement, Kashia became the target of hateful attacks.
Konstantine Morgoshia, one of the leaders of the hard-line nationalist March of the Georgians’ Movement, threatened him with reprisals. “You just arrive in Tbilisi on September 9 and you will see what will happen with you,” he wrote on his Facebook page. On September 9, Georgian National Team will compete with Latvia in Tbilisi. For these threats, Morgoshia was summoned by police on August 29.
The Georgian Football Federation stood in support to Guram Kashia. “This award is very important for the Football Federation and our country. We are against any forms of discrimination, violence and stand beside Guram Kashia,” Vice President of the Football Federation, Nika Jgarkava said.
The issue, widely discussed on social media, has emerged as a topic in presidential campaign. Davit Bakradze, nominated by opposition European Georgia, expressed “full support and solidarity” in to Kashia in an official statement. “It is unacceptable when clearly pro-Russian and Nazi forces openly threaten the footballer only because he condemned violence and supported equality between people,” Bakradze noted.
The reactions from the government have, so far, been reserved. Mikheil Batiashvili, Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, said today in response to journalists’ questions, that he “is not so deeply familiar with the issue, but would take further interest and get ready to answer [later on].”
Later on the ministry’s press office sent Batiashvili’s comment to Civil.ge, with the minister denouncing any form of discrimination, and stressing he would “stand by the athletes under any circumstance, [and] protect them.”