ABUJA, Nigeria, June 13 – A senior Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) official has blamed lesbians for recent poor performances of the country’s women’s team, repeating a claim that FIFA has previously condemned.
The Super Falcons are the most successful African nation in the game, having won the continental title a record nine times and competed at every Women’s World Cup since it started in 1991.
But they have failed to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and were also under-par in last year’s All Africa Games in Congo.
NFF vice-president Seyi Akinwunmi blamed the decline in the women’s game nationally to same-sex relationships, which are illegal in religiously conservative Nigeria.
“Lesbianism kills teams,” he complained at a meeting of sports writers in the southwestern city of Ibadan on Saturday, in comments reported in national newspapers on Monday.
“People are afraid to talk about it. The coaches also take advantage of the girls, so there is much more to build in female football.”
Akinwunmi was not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP.
Nigeria, which is almost evenly split between a largely Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, has found itself in hot water with football’s world governing body before on the issue.
In June 2011, women’s coach Eucharia Uche came under fire for branding homosexuality “dirty” and “spiritually and morally very wrong”, and for admitting she forced lesbians out of her team.
Three years ago, the former chairwoman of the women’s league, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, reportedly announced a ban on lesbianism in Nigerian football, prompting a FIFA inquiry.
FIFA’s non-discrimination stance includes gender and non-inclusive policies on the part of member countries are “strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion”.
Several high-profile female footballers are openly gay or bisexual, including ex-USA star Abby Wambach, whom Time magazine named among the world’s 100 most influential people in 2015.
Nigeria in January 2014 introduced strict new laws banning same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, proposing up to 14 years in jail for law-breakers.
Gay rights campaigners described the legislation as “one of the world’s most homophobic laws” but the government at the time said it had the support of more than 90 percent of Nigerians.