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Gays and lesbians will not be sidelined at Euro 2008

Fed up with the homophobic atmosphere in European football, gay and lesbian fans are determined to take a stand at the Euro 2008.
None | By DPA, Vienna
UPDATED ON JUN 06, 2008 01:27 PM IST

Fed up with the homophobic atmosphere in European football, gay and lesbian fans are determined to take a stand at the Euro 2008.

In Vienna, activists have initiated a poster competition to come up with a campaign against homophobia in football, while a gay party lounge called the LockerRoom has secured a coveted spot in the middle of the Zurich fan mile.

The fact that there are no openly homosexual professional football players is the strongest indication for a homophobic atmosphere in this sport, organisers of both initiatives said.

"In football, gays and lesbians have absolutely no opportunities, so we saw a strong need for action," Hannes Sulzenbacher, one of the initiators of the poster competition, told DPA.

The winning entry, chosen by the jury for its clear message, shows the torso of a player dressed in the Austrian team colours. Instead of a team captain's armband, he wears a band with the word "Gay" on it.

The poster by Vienna art student Martina Schoenherr are shown as part of the best 32 submissions in the Museumsquartier art complex from Wednesday, only a few minute's walk from the official fan zone.

Other entries to the "Homo: Foul" competition tackle the issue in a more direct way. "Gay, straight, bi - we all play with balls" reads the slogan on a poster by the Bulgarian Milen Gelishev.

Among the designs sent in from about a dozen European countries and the US, the high number of entries from Central and Eastern Europe was noticeable, Sulzenbacher said. In his opinion, homophobia is particularly rampant in this region.

The posters will also be shown in the LockerRoom, a bar and lounge for gays and their friends that opened Friday in the centre of the Fan Mile in Zurich.

As homosexuality and sexuality were still taboo topics in sport, "we wanted to be in the middle of things, and not on the sidelines", said Rolando Fusco, one of the operators.

The LockerRoom lounge on the edge of the Limmat river in central Zurich has space for around 130 guests. It features a bar, outdoor area, stage and TV screens for viewing Euro 2008 games.

A club for gay managers and an association of Swiss gay bankers have already booked the lounge for specific games, Fusco said.

As a highlight, LockerRoom will host a party with British gay icon Boy George on the turntables, taking place in a different location in Zurich on June 20.

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