The first winner of FIFA’s #EqualGame award is currently plying his trade in Major League Soccer.
Georgian captain Guram Kashia is now with San Jose Earthquakes, but was the focus of anti-LGBT ire last season while leading Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.
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Kashia wore a rainbow-colored captain’s arm band for Vitesse in support of the LGBT community, and was met with a violent response.
According to the BBC:
Anti-LGBT protestors in his homeland reacted with riots, smoke bombs and flares. A rainbow flag was burned outside the headquarters of the Georgian Football Federation, while the defender faced threats and abuse, with calls made for him to be dropped from the national team.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin celebrated Kashia for preaching “tolerance and acceptance, and help(ing to) change perceptions of this minority group in his native country of Georgia.”
Kashia will be honored by the Quakes before their Aug. 29 game against FC Dallas.
Led by Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili, San Jose’s attack has been halfway decent this MLS season.
The Quakes are hoping his Vako’s national team captain can help fix what ails the other end of the pitch.
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San Jose has used Targeted Allocation Money to sign Georgia national team and Vitesse captain Guram Kashia, who turns 31 on July 4.
Kashia was the second-best ranked center back in the attack-heavy Eredivisie this season according to WhoScored, combining with American CB Matt Miazga to steady the fifth-stingiest back line in the Netherlands.
The Georgian captain has been capped 65 times with two goals, playing every minute of the nation’s unsuccessful World Cup qualifying bid.
Kashia said goodbye on the Vitesse site:
“I have had very special years at the club. For me, Vitesse and Arnhem really feel like home. I love the club, the environment and the people. … It has been a difficult decision to say goodbye. Together with my family I have discussed that now perhaps the last chance is to go on an adventure. Vitesse is and stays in my heart.”