Idrissa Gueye traveled south to Montpellier with his Paris St. Germain teammates for the team’s league game on Saturday but wound up watching it from the stands. Gueye was not injured, his coach said after PSG’s victory: He “had to leave the team for personal reasons.”
Gueye has not commented on his absence, but the French language media reports, which were first reported on Saturday, quickly noted that he had also missed the same awareness-raising fixture last season. Last season’s absence was attributed to a stomach issue, but this year PSG’s coach, Mauricio Pochettino, said Gueye didn’t have any health issues.
Activist groups were quick to denounce Gueye’s decision to decline to wear the jersey. Rouge Direct, a group that fights homophobia in sports, called on the French league, PSG and Gueye to “explain themselves” and suggested Gueye should be punished for his actions.
For PSG the issue of support for gay rights and anti-homophobia efforts is a particularly sensitive one. The team is owned by the Qatari state through its sovereign wealth fund, and Qatar itself has come under the scrutiny of the gay community about their safety when the World Cup takes place in the Gulf country later this year. Homosexuality is against the law in Qatar, as it is in other countries in the Gulf, but World Cup organizers have insisted that all fans could be welcome during the tournament.
Same-sex acts are also illegal in Gueye’s native Senegal, where ultraconservative groups have burned rainbow flags during public protests against homosexuality.
PSG hasn’t commented on Gueye beyond the comments made by Pochettino after Sunday’s game.
The club’s senior officials are currently in Qatar, according to a team representative, whose contract with PSG expires at the end of next month.
PSG is due to its star-studded roster, which has produced the club’s eighth French championship in the past 10 years. On Saturday at Montpellier, two of its star forwards – Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi – both scored goals, helped highlight the special commissioned jersey they wore on social media and beyond.
According to the PSG’s in-house conversation over the weekend, club officials have said that the team was committed to the campaign and that it had no option but to wear the rest of its teammates if it wanted to play . When Gueye decided he wouldn’t, he was sent for the game, according to a person with knowledge with the incident.