TBILISI, DFWatch–Six far right activists were arrested Tuesday night at the office of the Georgian Football Federation’s (GFF) in Tbilisi, as they protested the wearing of a rainbow colored LGBT armband by one of the national team members.
The right wing nationalists demand that the federation must expel the team’s vice captain Guram Kashia for wearing an armband during a match in the Netherlands on October 15, while playing for the team Vitesse Arnhem.
Kashia is a defender for the club, which plays in the Dutch Eredivisie league, and he is also vice captain of the Georgian national team.
The Marchers, as the far right activists have been nicknamed by local media, became furious after seeing Kashia with the rainbow colored armband, which symbolizes support for the rights of gays, lesbian and other sexual minorities. They demand that GFF must distance itself from Kashia and expel him from the national team.
The ultranationalists earned the nickname “Marchers” from a huge anti-immigratio n march in Tbilisi last July.
Their demand was immediately rebuffed by the federation.
The “Marchers” then gathered at the GFF office in Tbilisi Tuesday late evening in order to “paint it in the colors of the rainbow”, throwing firecrackers and tearing up an LGBT flag, where they were confronted by police. A brief clash ensued which ended with the arrest of the six ultranationalists, the police said.
Guram Kashia expressed surprise that a casual thing caused so much controversy in Georgia.
“It was an ordinary match where I had to play. Why did they pay so much attention to that?” he said in an interview with Rustavi 2. “Besides me, all the others wore the armband and I can not guess why this stirred so much controversy in Georgia. I wouldn’t do it on my own initiative.”
Levan Kobiashvili, GFF president, and Kakha Kaladze, former AC Milan defender and Tbilisi Mayor-elect, quickly issued statements of solidarity with Guram Kashia, as did many athletes, politicians and celebrities, including President Giorgi Margvelashvili. The “Marchers” threatened to carry on their protest by holding a rally at the office of the presidential administration.