When Swedish soccer players on the Sörskogens IF team decided to use homophobic slurs to intimidate an openly queer, all-inclusive opposing team, the consequences were immediate.
According to local news coverage, the Sörskogens players took upon themselves a series of efforts to make the Stockholm Snipers — a team described by its coach as “mainly [...] homosexual, bisexual and transgender people” but which also includes people of all backgrounds and identities — feel abused and demoralized. They chanted slogans like ‘you’ve given us all HIV’ and ‘you’ve infected us all’ to Snipers team members, and encouraged fans to participate. They made threats to players and left the Snipers so shaken that the team locked themselves in their dressing room until the entire grounds were cleared following the game.
Snipers Coach Christoffer Smitz described the team’s experience as “unpleasant” and confirmed that they received threats and hid out until full-time was over.
The Stockholm Football Association fined the amateur team 5,000 kroner ($755) following a report of the incident; the president of the Sörskogens club, Ketil Torp, didn’t think that was enough. “We had no choice but to close down the whole team,” he said, confirming that homophobic abuse was not going to be tolerated. The entire first-team squad involved in the game has been suspended for the rest of the season.
“This kind of abuse fits neither in football nor outside the game,” Torp added. “We are a club with 90% youth players and it must be clear that this is not in our values.”
The official Twitter of Sörskorgens IF publicly echoed the sentiment of Torp and the Sörskorgens Board:
“Just to be clear. This section of Sörskorgens IF has nothing to do with the ugly actions towards LGBT. The team has been sacked.
Although the behavior of the Sörskorgens first squad at that fateful match was deplorable and unjust, the action taken on behalf of the team’s board and league officials is remarkable and heartening. In a world where sports culture often glorifies gender-normative performance at the expense of inclusivity, seeing figureheads and powerful players speak out against homophobia is huge. Sweden, of course, comes well-endowed with a reputation for being borderline-otherworldly amazing towards queer people, but the situation still plays out as a remarkable attempt to hold athletes and individual people accountable for participating in a culture that remains broken in its treatment of LGBT people. Whereas it is easy to see this situation play out, in another time or place, differently, instead we saw a tangible example of what it means not to tolerate homophobia, no matter how accepted it might be.