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Prejudices On The Playing Field

by Jos Verstegen in General , 09 september 2009


The city of Enschede commissioned communication consultant Danny de Vries to compose a “prejudice team”: a soccer team with every player representing a certain stereotype.

Danny de Vries: “Every first Friday of the month gay disco ’t Bölke in Enschede organizes a business café. It was where Alderman Ed Wallinga last month formulated the question: how can we address homosexuality in the soccer world? We need to break the current taboo.


Of course we can make a flyer and a poster, we can visit the clubs and arrange for speakers and that’s it. With very limited impact and it wouldn’t interest the press one bit. The more attention the better because we need people to start talking about it. We have to make the newspapers.”

“Together with my colleague Martijn I started thinking. We thought it would be good if it wasn’t just about prejudices about homosexuality. There are so many prejudices about minorities, like immigrants and handicapped people. We wanted to combine all these issues so that’s how we came up with the soccer team and the idea of every player to represent a minority.”

“An ex-junkie, an ex-convict, a physically disabled person, a mentally disabled person, a person with bi-polar disorder, someone from the trailer park, an unemployed person, a Moroccan, a poof, but also a blond woman and a German. All these people have to deal with preconceived ideas. They’re useless, they’re strange, they’re only trouble. These negative thoughts are constantly connected with certain groups in society. It’s so easy to maintain these things without realizing. We want to break this pattern.”

“The message behind the team is: show respect for each other, interact with each other, get to know each other, kick those prejudices to the curb. It’s a serious message but at the same time the team has something funny, tongue in cheek.”






“At this moment, June 2009, we have fifteen players representing nine stereotypes. Fifteen is a great number but if more people want to take part we can extend to two teams, or even three. Some people are very easy to motivate to take part in the team. Like ‘Mee Twente,’ a care provider for physically and mentally handicapped people, they wanted to take part immediately, it’s their goal to improve participation to begin.”

“To acquire gays for the team proved to be much harder. We asked Homosport Nederland to issue a call to gay soccer players to call in. We knew we were never going to get a player from any real selection but were happy to settle for any soccer player taking part in competition as long as he was out of the closet. Homosport Nederland has contact with a gay soccer team. The publicity was a problem for all of them after all. We continued to search via internet, we used Hyves and LinkedIn.”

“This way it was much easier to get in touch with some people who had been out for a while without any trouble at the club. We ended up with three guys, from Oss, Rotterdam and Oldenzaal. The idea that there are no soccer players out there, really out there, has been proved wrong. They are keen to show that it is very possible to be open about your sexuality and still play sports in a team.”






“The team came together on the July 2. The shirts were ready then too. A period of training followed. At the end of August Enschede will host an international youth competition for 13 to 16-year olds who are already playing for clubs like Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and large German clubs. Players who are going in the direction of professionalism. It’s very important they acquire a positive attitude towards homosexuality. The kick off will be on the 29th of August. The prejudice team plays the opening match against the veterans from Twente, former soccer players. There will also be a prejudice market.”

“If all this succeeds and we’ve generated a lot of media attention, it’s very important the team can continue in a successful way. The anti-discrimination bureau A1 Overijssel will adopt the team. They will go to schools for several activities like matches against school teams and other educational activities, other times they will just do the presentation and discussion, it varies.”


“Enschede is ‘Sports City of the Year,’ a title it deserved for spending a lot of attention to sports. The prejudice team activities fit this perfectly. Enschede is also one of the eighteen pioneer cities which receive money from minister Plasterk to stimulate their gay policies.”

“The prejudice team is part of that program, it lends the city a gay-friendly image. It stimulates people to think about prejudices and homophobia. It shows that it pays off to open up towards each other. Sports can bring people together, the team is an example that it’s possible, not just in Enschede but in entire Holland.”



 







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In the New Issue of Gay News, 314, October 2017

















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