A Rainbow Showcase
Twenty-four goals were scored in French Premier League matches between 29 and 31 January 2016 on the 23rd day of the championship. Nine victories, of which four were away matches, and one draw. Of course, there were some surprises. But away from score-boards, and unusual event took place elsewhere during this long weekend of French football. On the initiative of an amateur club in the Paris area, “Panamboyz United”, players in League One and Two wore rainbow-coloured laces in their football boots. The symbol of tolerance, the fight against discrimination and respect of differences.
This initiative had a slogan: “Proud of our differences: united with rainbow laces!” It is supported by the main French football authorities – LFP and UNFP (French Professional Football Unions) and the FondaCtion du football, created by the French Football Federation. It also won the support of the Paris Municipal Council. A video clip was shown to audiences in participating stadiums before the start of the match, and a crowd-funding campaign was launched to collect funds to encourage original, educational actions which tackle questions related to equal opportunities and promoting diversity. It was a great success.
“Panamboyz United” is no newcomer to this campaign. Last year it came up with the idea to ask players in professional clubs to wear rainbow laces on their boots. This first initiative was organized in November 2014 and we rewarded it with the Peace and Sport/UNFP Award – a prize jointly given to Bertrand Lambert, vice-president of “Panamboyz United”, and to Frederic Thiriez, president of the Professional Football League. “Football can bring direction beyond stadiums and supporters, said H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, High Patron of Peace and Sport, when he praised the prize winners. “That’s why I’m so attached to this trophy which rewards people in French football who see further and higher than their sport.”
There are many associations throughout in the world who insist that the players show their support by wearing rainbow laces. But France is the only country where two professional championships accepted to support this initiative two years running. Football is by far the most watched and mediatized of all sports. It’s therefore an unparalleled showcase. Over the past few years, this platform has too often presented a negative image of sport, its participants and audiences. It has shown the world some unacceptable acts of racism, violence and corruption through mixing business and politics.
This time, it showed clubs and players united for the same cause: the fight against discrimination. Bravo.