According to a top sporting official in Nigeria, women’s soccer teams there are getting short shrift from sponsors due to irrational fears over “lesbianism.” Seyi Akinwunmi, vice-president of the Nigeria Football Federation, told reporters “One of the problems we have encountered in trying to raise funds for the women’s game, is the perception of lesbianism therein.” Akinwunmi was trying to tap dance around controversial remarks he’d made earlier in which he said “lesbianism kills teams” because sponsors avoid backing women’s sports.
The primary factor driving this kind of discrimination is the social stigma attached to homosexuality in Nigeria. Same-sex relationships are banned there. Also, garden variety sexism is a factor. Male players on sports teams earn vastly higher salaries than women players. But Akinwunmi, trying to quell the uproar over his previous remarks, said he remained optimistic over the prospect of finding financial backing. “We strongly believe that there are still potential sponsors out there who will lend their support to help us develop our female teams because of the glory that these girls have brought to this country and their enormous potential to do even more,” Akinwunmi said.
Nigeria’s national women’s soccer team, the Super Falcons, have an extraordinary record of dominance stretching over the last quarter century. The Super Falcons have qualified for every single FIFA World Cup since 1991, when competition began, and the team is Africa’s most successful soccer club. Though, this year, the team didn’t make the cut for the Rio Olympics.