Five Muslim football players in France’s top division, the Ligue 1, reportedly refused to play in Sunday’s fixture between Toulouse FC and Nantes in protest over a campaign against homophobia, citing religious views.
According to the Daily Mail, all Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches over the weekend had been dedicated to the league’s initiative against homophobia, with the numbers on the back of players’ shirts in rainbow colours.
However, a report by La Depeche du Midi stated that many members of Toulouse’s club did not support the campaign and expressed their refusal to play. The players were named as Zakaria Aboukhlal, Moussa Diarra, Fares Chaibi, Said Hamulic for Tolouse and Nantes’ Mostafa Mohamed. Logan Costa of Tolouse also did not want to play, although both he and Chaibi were named on the team sheet, according to AFP.
Mohamed, who also plays for the Egyptian national team, tweeted: “I don’t want to argue at all but I have to state my position.”
“I respect all differences. I respect all beliefs and convictions. This respect extends to others but also includes respect for my personal beliefs,” he added.
“Given my roots, my culture, the importance of my convictions and beliefs, it was not possible for me to participate in this campaign. I hope that my decision will be respected, as well as my wish not to argue about this and that everyone is treated with respect.”
French website l’Equipe reported that Mohamed refused to wear the jersey and stayed in the hotel during the game which ended in a 0-0 draw.
On his Instagram account, Moroccan player Aboukhlal explained that he “made the decision not to take part in today’s game.”
“First and foremost, I want to emphasise that I hold the highest regard for every individual regardless of their personal preferences, gender, religion or background. This is a principle that cannot be emphasised enough,” Aboukhlal said.
“Respect is a value that I hold in great esteem. It extends to others, but it also encompasses respect for my own personal beliefs. Hence, I don’t believe I am the most suitable person to participate in this campaign.”
In a statement on Sunday, Toulouse said: “Some players of the professional squad have expressed their disagreement regarding the association of their image with the rainbow colors representing the LGBT movement.”
“Respecting the individual choices of its players, and after numerous exchanges, the Toulouse Football Club has chosen to exclude these players from the game,” the Ligue 1 club added.