Berlin: Nigeria coach Eucharia Uche sparked controversy on the eve of the women's World Cup on Saturday by branding homosexuality as 'dirty'.
"Homosexuality is a dirty thing, spiritually and morally it is very, very wrong," Uche is quoted as saying in a German daily.
Although Uche says she has no proof that there are any gay players in the Super Falcons team, in the past she has brought in pentecostal priests to pray and offer her team guidance on the issue.
Before Uche took charge in 2009, players are reported to have been thrown out of the Nigerian side under suspicion of being lesbians, claims the daily.
Nigeria play France in the opening game of the women's World Cup on Sunday and Uche's words put her on a collision course with the sport's governing body FIFA, who want to use football to promote social and cultural understanding.
In a mission statement, FIFA says it wants to use the sport in 'overcoming social and cultural obstacles for women with the ultimate aim of improving women’s standing in society'.
At a FIFA press conference in Berlin, president Sepp Blatter said he had no knowledge of Nigeria players being cut from the team because of their sexuality, while Tatjana Haenni, the head of women's competitions, has said she will speak to Uche.
"We have read the comments as well," she said.
"I think FIFA has a different point of view and clearly one is against any sort of discrimination, I think that says it all.
"We will talk to her about exactly what she said and when."
In the article, Uche said she had no concrete evidence of lesbians in her team, but added: "when rumours are strong, you are bound to believe it is happening".
The coach, who is married with two children, said she wants to help guide her players away from homosexuality with help from religious leaders.
"Homosexuality is an everyday thing and I came to realise that there is not a physical cause. We need divine intervention to control it and fight," she said.
Nigeria have been drawn in Group A along with hosts Germany, France and Canada.
Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Federation (DFB), has said he would support any footballer who admitted they are homosexual, while Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer openly admitted she is bisexual last December.
Last year, Nigeria accused African rivals Equatorial Guinea, who have been drawn in Group D with Brazil, Australia and Norway, of fielding male players during a match between the nations, Equatorial Guinea officials said the charges were unfounded.
First Published: Saturday, June 25, 2011, 23:11