Rishi Madlani

'I Want Other Ethnic Minority LGBTQ+ People To Feel Comfortable To Come Out'

To mark LGBT History Month (1-28 February), Leicester City will be showing its continued support for the Football v Homophobia campaign, an initiative that exists to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression at all levels in football.

- Leicester City will be showing their support for the Football v Homophobia campaign during February 
- Foxes Pride member Rishi Madlani shares his personal story as part of FvH and Race Equality Week (1-7 February) 
- The Football Club’s LGBTQ+ supporter group – Foxes Pride – were formed in 2015

To kick-start the Football Club’s support of this year’s campaign, which is celebrated every February, we spoke to Foxes Pride member Rishi Madlani (he/him) to discuss some of the challenges he’s faced during his life and how he wants to help other ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people to feel comfortable about coming out.  

Rishi, 38, has been involved with the Club’s LGBTQ+ supporter group – Foxes Pride – since their formation in 2015, and has seen the group expand from just a handful of people to nearly 200 members – and counting!

In this piece, he also talks about the importance of LCFC supporting campaigns such as Football v Homophobia and the work of Foxes Pride, as well as Race Equality Week – which takes place from 1-7 February.

He said: “Foxes Pride was established in 2015 to promote the welfare of our LGBTQ+ supporters and to work with the Club to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football.

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Foxes Pride
Foxes Pride

Foxes Pride are welcomed to King Power Stadium by Filbert Fox.

“We wanted to create a group where everyone would feel welcome and comfortable, and of course have a shared interest in Leicester City.

“We’ve managed to do some amazing work with the Club over the past few seasons, and I know I speak on behalf of the group when I say we’re truly grateful for the support we’ve received from everyone at LCFC – they’ve been first class.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has impacted football, group members have been meeting up virtually with other LGBTQ+ supporter groups from across the Premier League while games have been taking place behind closed doors.

“Having a safe group of friends to go to the football with is really critical, and that’s one of the things Foxes Pride provides," he said.

“In normal times we’d meet for a drink before the game, but throughout lockdown we’ve made sure we’ve kept our pre-match routine by organising Zoom meet-ups with other LGBTQ+ supporter groups.

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Rishi Madlani
Rishi Madlani

Rishi Madlani says providing a welcoming environment for all at LCFC fixtures is key.

“We’re all missing not being able to go to football, so having something like this is really nice and means we can still be part of the action, albeit virtually.”

Discussing some of the obstacles facing the LGBTQ+ community at a football setting, Rishi explained that it can sometimes be a challenging environment.

“There has always been and there always will be LGBTQ+ people at football matches, but in the past a lot of people feel like they haven’t been able to be themselves," he continued.

“For me, it’s always been quite easy because people would usually say: ‘You wouldn’t know he was gay’, but that’s not the case for the whole community, nor should anyone have to hide their sexuality at football.

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Foxes Pride pre-match Zoom call
Foxes Pride pre-match Zoom call

Foxes Pride continue to meet with opposition supporter groups via virtual means during the coronavirus pandemic.

“So, this is one of the reasons I bring my whole self to games to try and make it a little easier for those people who may not find it as straightforward.”

As in previous seasons, the Football Club will once again be dedicating a home fixture to the Football v Homophobia campaign later this month, something Rishi feels is vitally important for the visibility of LGBTQ+ awareness.

He said: “I can’t tell you how important it is for clubs like Leicester City to be seen to be supporting Football v Homophobia, and the reason for this is because it shows that we’re a Club who welcomes LGBTQ+ fans.

“There’s something really powerful about these sorts of campaigns, be it Football v Homophobia, Rainbow Laces or Kick it Out, and I can’t stress how much it meant to us as Foxes Pride members seeing the LCFC First Team squad holding the Football v Homophobia flag up during last season’s campaign.

“It shows they really value us and that they would welcome us just as much as they would any other fan, because at the end of the day, Foxes Pride members are just like any other LCFC supporter; we’re all crazy, we’re all mad about Leicester City and I’m sure my boyfriend would be much happier if there were less LCFC scarves and memorabilia around our house!”

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Rishi Madlani
Rishi Madlani

Cheering on the Foxes on the Club's greatest-ever day as they lifted the Premier League trophy in May 2016.

Asked what more can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community at football, Rishi feels education is paramount.

“Fan education and understanding is the main thing, as well as stewards being trained to notice and deal with homophobic abuse," he explained.

“We want to be at a stage where each fan can come to a football game regardless of their sexuality, race or gender, but right now I can still see why some supporters wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable coming to matches.  

“We’ll know we’ve succeeded when everyone feels comfortable to come along. Like I say it’s all about education and realising why some comments could be seen as homophobic, but through working with the Club and the authorities we can continue our fight to make football accessible to all.”

In addition to supporting Football v Homophobia, the Club are also backing Race Equality Week (1-7 February), a campaign where organisations across the country unite in activity to seriously address race in the workplace.

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Football v Homophobia
Football v Homophobia

Leicester City showed its support for Football v Homophobia last season and will continue to in future.

For Rishi, a British-Indian who has faced difficulties in his life due to his sexuality, he wants to help other ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people to feel comfortable to come out.

He added: “The experiences of ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people are often very different from the mainstream LGBTQ+ community. For example, there are 25 per cent of ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people who are not out to anyone, and this obviously can lead to mental health issues for some because they can’t talk to anyone about being LGBTQ+.

“Part of the reason I do what I do with Foxes Pride is because we have so few ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people in our group, so I want to be seen as that person who could help and support anyone who wants to come out.

“I was very lucky in a way because my parents accepted that I was gay, and although it wasn’t easy for them being from East Africa and of Indian descent, they have come to terms with it over time and my boyfriend is now very much part of our family.

“I don’t want anyone to suffer in silence, and to the 25 per cent of ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people who are not out, I want them to see that it’s okay and everything else will be okay too. That is why this is so important to me and I want to help.”

Please click HERE for more information about Foxes Pride.

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