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The captains of teams in the Dutch top two men’s divisions and women’s premier league will wear rainbow-coloured armbands this weekend.

Dutch player union VVCS and its 10-men players council set up the initiative in cooperation with the John Blankenstein Foundation, an organization pushing for acceptance of gay and lesbian footballers.

VVCS chairman Danny Hesp said it was easy to convince all captains to participate. “We do this to support all our fellow players, referees, fans, volunteers and many others within football who are still struggling with their identity.”

“We hope that this action will help increase awareness about the importance of diversity. Football is for everybody regardless of skin colour, cultural background, race, gender, religion or sexuality.”

Homosexuality is still a taboo in professional football. No active players are openly gay, though there have been a few who came out of the closet after retiring such as Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Rogers.

In November 2014, the VVCS and the John Blankenstein Foundation published a survey about gay acceptance in professional football. More than 400 professional players participated, with the following results:

  • 4% of players said they knew a colleague who is gay or bisexual
  • 80 % thought that it is very difficult to come out and be openly gay in the Dutch professional football league
  • 68 % considered the climate to be inhospitable to gay players
  • 70 % would find it ok if a teammate came out
  • 4.4 (on a scale from one to ten) was the average score for the perceived level of tolerance towards gay men in Dutch football.

The VVCS, the John Blankenstein Foundation and FIFPro are supporting the Heroes of Football campaign, which has a mission “to let everyone who loves football enjoy the game 100 per cent”.

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