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Disappointment as Villarreal fails to mark Pride Month

I try to stay away from politics or social issues here, but I need to call out the club I love on this one.

Why not this year?
Villarreal CF via twitter (La via Groga)

Villarreal has, in the past, done something for Pride Month, or specifically for Pride Day in Spain. In 2018, for example, the team posted a statement that translated as “Villarreal adds to Pride Day 2018. The Yellow Submarine supports tolerance and respect for diversity” and used the hashtag “many colors, one feeling”.

This year, nothing. Other teams did something. Villarreal did not. For example, Athletic Club took advantage of the LED lighting on their stadium to bathe the walls in a rainbow. Villarreal, which has a similar LED system, could have done that.

Closer to home, our Segunda B neighbors, Castellón, flew the Pride flag over their stadium. Villarreal could have done that.

Yes, I know some feel that “celebrating pride” has become something corporations want to be seen to “support” by doing modest things to feel good about itself, pay lip service, or use the rainbow as a marketing opportunity. I get that. But in this case, the omission matters.

It matters because Villarreal has a larger-than-average percentage of young people among its fans. It matters because Villarreal is an exemplar of involvement with its town and its region, and its fanbase.

It matters in Vila-real because, although the recent elections resulted in the same mayor returning to office and the same political party in power, the rightwing Vox party, with a very anti-LGBQT agenda, got one seat on the city council. And that councillor refused to let the municipality of Vila-real fly the rainbow flag over the town hall (as it had done the last few years).

It matters because fans outside Spain, like me, may have been drawn to support Villarreal initially because of success on the field, but ultimately they continue to call themselves groguets at least in part because they support the culture of the club and what makes the team special—our cantera, our commitment to youth soccer with academies in the US and elsewhere, as well as in Vila-real; the various “Endavant” initiatives and the support Villarreal gives to other sports in the province, and the “family” relationship with the fans.

It matters because celebrating Pride Month by flying a flag over your stadium, or putting a nice post on your official website, isn’t a political thing, or shouldn’t be. It’s not against anything, it’s not taking sides. Flying the rainbow flag, doing an LED display, or whatever is a conscious message— that the club respects diversity, and the club’s stadium is a safe space where everyone’s right to be who they are will be supported. That’s a message any football club ought to be willing to put out there. Let’s hope next year Villarreal will do so.