Senegal’s President Macky Sall and other prominent national figures have expressed their support for Paris Saint-Germain footballer Idrissa Gueye, who is facing homophobia accusations in France.
The midfielder missed a Ligue 1 game against Montpellier on Saturday during which players wore rainbow shirts in support of the LGBTQ movement.
Gueye also missed a match last year on a day dedicated to the fight against homophobia, prompting French media to speculate that he had deliberately avoided the game. Gueye has not spoken publicly about why he missed the match.
President Macky Sall wrote on Twitter: “I support Idrissa Gana Gueye. His religious beliefs must be respected.”
Sports Minister Matar Ba said: “When you sign (with a club), it’s to play football. It’s not to promote anything or put aside your beliefs.”
Former Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne said: “Hang in there, Gainde,” using the Wolof word for lion. He then went on to quote Surah al Kafiroon: “I don’t worship what you worship, and you don’t worship what I worship.”
Boubacar Boris Diop, a prominent writer, also expressed his “total solidarity with Idrissa Gana Gueye” on Twitter.
In the UK, Crystal Palace’s Cheikhou Kouyate and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr posted on social media in apparent support of their Senegal team-mate.
Kouyate posted a picture of himself alongside Gueye on Instagram, with a caption calling Gueye “a real man.” Watford winger Sarr posted a picture of him and Gueye accompanied by three heart emojis and the caption “100%.”
Meanwhile, the AFP news agency said it had seen a letter from the French Football Federation’s ethics board calling on Gueye to explain why he missed Saturday’s game.
The letter, says AFP, calls for him to “issue a public apology” or to say that the rumours he refused to play are “unfounded.” The letter reportedly adds if he did refuse to play he would be “validating discriminatory behaviour.”
In Senegal, where 95 percent of the population is Muslim, homosexuality is widely considered a deviance.
Article 319 of the Penal Code (1965) prescribes a penalty of imprisonment from one to five years and/or a fine for anyone who commits an “act against nature” with persons of the same gender.
In early March 2016 the President of Senegal was unequivocal that the law penalising same sex sexual relations would never be repealed under his tenure.
And in 2018 a man was sentenced to six months in prison after a video of him having sex with another man went viral online. The woman who filmed the pair without their knowledge, and then shared the video, was also sentenced to two years for distribution of “immoral content.”