Danish footballer praised for standing up to homophobic abuse

FC Copenhagen footballer Viktor Fischer has been given the backing of his club, the Danish football association and the national LGBTI association after publicly speaking against homophobic chanting at stadia.

Danish footballer praised for standing up to homophobic abuse
Viktor Fischer. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Two episodes involving homophobic chanting have occurred at Danish football stadia in recent days.

On Sunday, Fischer was the target of homophobic chanting from fans of Odense Boldklub after FC Copenhagen’s 1-0 victory at the home of their Superligaen rivals.

The following day, the midfielder, who has played 21 times for Denmark’s national team, was again targeted — this time at a match in which he didn’t play, as fans of Brøndby chanted about the player following a match against FC Nordsjælland.

Fischer condemned the chanting following the match in Odense.

“I experienced specific songs against me, directed at me by name, saying I was homosexual. That’s not the problem. I have nothing against being called one thing or another. The problem for me here is that the word ‘homo’ was used as an insult. That is a very, very bad culture for young people and generally for everyone who comes to a football stadium to see football,” he told TV2.

“There’s something of a culture in elite sport, in football, which is based on just being tough, keeping quiet, because that makes you a strong sportsman. But it’s not about being a strong sportsman. It’s about the culture at stadia needing to be better. It’s about ‘homosexual’ not being an insult. It never should have been (an insult), and especially in 2019 in Denmark, it should not be anymore,” the 24-year-old footballer added.

The player has received the backing of the Danish Football Association (DBU), which, in a joint statement with league and fans’ representative organisations, said that “homophobia has no place – either on or off the pitch”.

DBU made specific reference to the chants about Fischer in its statement condemning homophobia at Danish football stadia.

“It is crucial that players who are subjected to harassment of any kind react and call it out. Viktor Fischer did this, and that deserves respect,” the statement read.

The football association has since confirmed disciplinary action will be considered in response to the incidents at both matches.

FC Copenhagen, Odense, and Brøndby have all condemned the discriminatory behaviour by fans, as have those teams’ fan clubs.

Peter Holk Svendsen, head of LGBT Danmark, a national association for LGBTI people, called the incidents “highly criticisable” but noted that clubs and fanclubs, as well as players, had all spoken out against the chanting.

“On the part of both Viktor Fischer and from Denmark’s football authorities, there is dialogue about the fact this is a problem. That’s the positive side of this matter,” Svendsen told Ritzau.

But Danish football can do more to fight homophobia, he added, noting that no professional players in Denmark have publicly come out as gay.

“It’s a challenge that this is not a culture in which it’s possible (to come out), and there’s not enough acceptance for all segments of Danish society,” he said.

A DBU survey in 2018 found that, amongst 871 players, coaches, parents and officials involved in youth football matches, 15 percent said they have experienced homophobic shouting.

READ ALSO: Denmark withholds aid to Tanzania over homophobia

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.