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Soccer star harassed for wearing rainbow arm band honored with award

Soccer star harassed for wearing rainbow arm band honored with award

a man stands in an empty stadium holding a #equalgame sign and he is smiling

The Georgian soccer player attacked for bravely supporting LGBTI rights has won a prestigious award for not backing down from his beliefs.

Last year, Georgian national vice-captain, Guram Kashia, wore an rainbow armband while playing for the Dutch club, Vitesse Arnhem. He wore the armband to coincide with the Netherlands’ national ‘Coming Out Day’.

His choice sparked riots in Georgia where people burned the rainbow flag and police arrested eight people. Social media trolls also attacked Kashia online for his choice.

But he refused to back down and continued to stand up for human rights.

So, UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations) which is the governing body of European football decided to give Kashia its first ever #EqualGame award. Kashia’s win marked the first time Georgia won any UEFA award.

#EqualGame

A clearly humbled and grateful Kashia accepted the award saying he will always stand up for human rights.

‘Football has always been my love, my passion,’ he said.

‘I will keep playing football – and on and off the pitch, I will stand for human beings’ equality.’

Kashia who now plays for US team, San Jose Earthquakes, insisted soccer must always remain open to everyone, and welcomes the game’s undying strength as a force for unity.

‘I was really surprised to receive the award, but I’m really grateful,’ he said.

‘Football connects people, it brings so much happiness and excitement.

‘I believe football has a great power to gather people together – it doesn’t matter what colour you are, what kind of lifestyle you have, and who you are.’

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin praised Kashia for his ‘strong character and courage’ in standing tall in the face of threats and criticism.

Watch Kashia’s story: