Equal Game - UEFA - Guram Kashia - San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes Georgian defender Guram Kashia of Georgia has been honored by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) with the inaugural #EqualGame award for acting as a role model in promoting diversity, inclusion and accessibility in European soccer.

Kashia, who also serves as the captain of the Georgia National Team, wore a pride captain’s armband for his previous club Vitesse Arnhem during the match against Heracles Almelo on Oct. 15, 2017 as part of the Dutch Football Union’s campaign to promote diversity.

The gesture was received with negative and hostile responses in certain areas in his native Georgia, and there were calls for him to renounce playing for the national team. Despite the negative feedback, Kashia stood by his beliefs of diversity and inclusion.

"I am honored that UEFA has picked me as the recipient of the #EqualGame award,” said Kashia. “I believe in equality for everyone, no matter what you believe in, who you love or who you are. I thank UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin for this award, and I will always keep defending equality and equal rights for everyone, wherever I will play."

The award reflects the core values of UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign that everyone has the right to enjoy soccer, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or social background. The award will be presented at the UEFA Champions League group stage draw and gala in Monaco on Aug. 30, although Kashia will not be present due to his club duties with San Jose.

“The introduction of the #EqualGame award aims to celebrate and recognize the players who promote diversity, inclusion and accessibility - the values of our campaign,” said UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. “Football is a force for social change and people who are role models in their communities and who utilize sport for good should be rewarded.

“I congratulate Guram for his strong character and his courage. Guram has taken an important stand to support the LGBT community and equality overall and deserves to win this award. Even though his actions sparked threats and abuse from many groups, he preached tolerance and acceptance, and helped change perceptions of this minority group in his native country of Georgia.”

Kashia, the first-ever recipient of the award, also received support and praise from the soccer community after making his public endorsement for equality, including current and former Georgia Football Federation Presidents Levan Kobiashvili and Domenti Sichinava. Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili also supported Kashia through a statement on Facebook.

The Quakes will honor Kashia at their home match against FC Dallas on Wednesday, Aug. 29 set to kick off at 7:15 p.m.