The affair surrounding AS Monaco’s midfielder Mohamed Camara has caused many reactions in Mali. There is a lot of support for the international in public life in the African country, who last Sunday refused to support an action to combat homophobia around the football fields. During the last day of the French Championship, the midfielder had hidden the logo against homophobia flocked on his jersey and worn by all the players, coaches and referees, as part of a campaign to fight against discrimination piloted by the Professional Football League (LFP).

The LFP have taken a strong stance, announcing via a press release on the evening of Wednesday, May 23 that the “disciplinary committee has decided to summon the player Mohamed Camara for its next session which will be held on Thursday, May 30.”

The Malian midfielders behaviour led to many negative reactions in France, including that of Education and Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who asked for a sanction for the player and the club.

The club’s director Thiago Scuro once again made clear AS Monaco’s position in this matter at his press conference; “We are a club and we support the actions put in place by the League. I called Arnaud Rouger (the general director of the League) on Tuesday morning. I apologised to him and the club. Mohamed did this for religious reasons and we respect all religions, but we are really very sad after his behaviour, and we do not support it. This is a very sensitive subject. We have taken sanctions since the start of the season for various reasons, but we have handled this internally. We haven’t talked about it publicly and I prefer to do it that way. It won’t happen again next season.”

Scuro added that “I am not afraid of sanctions against AS Monaco. We’ll see what happens, but punishing the club wouldn’t be fair. It was a personal decision. This does not reflect what AS Monaco is, even if I respect all opinions. I’m not sure why anyone at the club didn’t tell him anything. Probably the players saw him in the locker room, but didn’t pay attention until he entered the field. We can’t control everyone. It got through. We need to improve.”

On Wednesday, the Malian Football Federation made a statement on social media; “The Malian Football Federation supports Mohamed Camara in the exercise of his freedom of expression and its corollary, that of not expressing oneself. It is important to remember that players are citizens like any other whose fundamental rights must be protected in all circumstances.”  

Camara’s decision was influenced by the repression of homosexuality in Mali, his country of origin, and by the fear of reprisals. On social networks, Malian personalities and many Internet users expressed their solidarity with the player, known in the national team for his attachment to the Muslim faith. “Those who call themselves defenders of freedom and democracy must respect the religious convictions of athletes. Full support for Mohamed Camara!” Hamidou Doumbia, Malian politician, wrote on Facebook. “Is he there to play football or support political causes on imposed sexual orientation?” asks Fatouma Harber, Malian blogger and feminist, on Facebook.

The French press agency AFP reports from Mali that multiple Malian sports papers also gave their support to the player in publications illustrated by photos of Mohamed Camara during his pilgrimage to Mecca. In Mali, of an estimated population of more than 20 million, 95 percent are Muslim, according to the US State Department’s 2022 report on global religious freedom. The country is attached to religious and traditional values ​​which do not tolerate the practice of homosexuality, even if no criminal sanctions are in force. In 2022, Malian Minister of Justice Mamoudou Kassogué described homosexuality as an “unnatural relationship”, and indicated that it would soon be criminalised, during a workshop to validate a preliminary draft law on Penal Code.

Featured image courtesy of AS Monaco: Mohamed Camara