Monday, May 31, 2010

Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo backs marriage rights for gay couples

As soccer fans around the world get ready for the FIFA World Cup, which begins in South Africa on June 11th, the sports pages of newspapers worldwide are doing their usual job of ratcheting up expectation by profiling participating team rosters and team members.

Portugal's Púbilico is no different than other papers and yesterday they featured an interview with Portuguese-born Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured above), in which he made worldwide headlines by expressing discontent and frustration about his first six months as a player for Spain's Real Madrid.

In the same interview, Ronaldo was also asked whether he followed developments in Portugal including the recent approval of a law that allows same-sex couples to get married.  His response:
The Portuguese man that I am, I try to keep informed about what is happening in my country.  I know the law was passed and the comment it deserves is that we must respect the choices made by anyone, because, after all, all citizens should have the exact same rights and responsibilities.
This is a breath of fresh air coming from one of the top players in a sport not particularly known for its tolerance or respect towards gays.

Wasn't it just earlier in the month that I covered the latest homophobic flare-up in the soccer world?  In that instance, as it often does, media was only happy to fan the flames by gleefully questioning whether this image proved that two Barcelona CF teammates were gay.

An update: Back then, I described how one of the players in the image, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, had angrily reacted to questions about his sexuality by lashing out at a female reporter and asking her to come home with him so he could prove he wasn't a 'fag'.

Since then, the other player in the image has also addressed the controversy.  In an interview posted on May 24th, Gerard Piqué (pictured right) says that the image in question was actually taken in March after both players had left a press conference in which Piqué had presented his published auto-biography.  Piqué believes that the image was held for days and only released at a later date in order to shake the team's stability during the season's final games.

Piqué doesn't directly address Ibrahamovic's angry outburst but does say that, at least at the time the image was released, both players took it in stride. "We saw it on the television in the dressing room," he said, "and we were both cracking up in laughter."


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