Every time Nigeria has stepped on the field this tournament, the crowd has whistled in derision. And tonight, when they take on Canada, it will likely be no different.
The Nigerian players have proved themselves over the last couple games, battling it out with top-ranked teams Germany and France. Unfortunately, their hard work has been wholly overshadowed by their coach's homophobic remarks leading up the Cup.
If you haven't read the article, the New York Times wrote that the Nigerian coach, Eucharia Uche, has been on a lesbian witch-hunt, removed gay players from her team, and uses religion and prayer to weed out the "dirty issue" from the rest.
There's been a massive public backlash towards the coach. More than 40,000 people have signed a petition to get her fired and FIFA has called for an anti-discrimination day on July 13, during the semifinals of the World Cup.
I don't think that Uche's comments are justified. At all.
But I do think that in focusing the attention solely on Uche and her individual actions, we are overlooking the larger systemic issue of homophobia in Africa.
Most Nigerians believe that "whether you are a man or a woman, homosexuality is a sin," explained Nigerian journalist Koloko Ejiro. "It's a taboo."
In fact 38 out of 53 African countries, including Nigeria, criminalize homosexuality in some way.
In Nigeria, gay sex is outlawed and a bill proposed in 2009, if enacted, would mean jail sentences for same-sex marriage or even same-sex couples living together. Activists who spoke up against the bill were met with backlash from church groups claiming that gay marriage risked "tearing the fabric of society," the BBC reported at the time.
"In the Bible it says homosexuals are criminals," Pius Akubo of the Daughters of Sarah Church told lawmakers, according to the BBC. And children showed up at the event wearing T-shirts reading, "Same sex marriage is un-natural and un-African" and "same sex marriage is an abomination."
The situation is worse in Uganda, where the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (proposed in 2009), if enacted, would make homosexual acts punishable by death. It would also penalize individuals, media houses, companies or non-governmental organizations that supported the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
In South Africa, one of the few countries where homosexuality is legal, gays and lesbians still face daily threats. Female soccer players are a prime target because they are perceived by society to be lesbians, whether they are or not.
"A month does not go by where an innocent lesbian woman is not raped and killed," said Pretty Makhanya, a local soccer player. "Last month we were at a funeral, and the month before, and the month before that - it has become normal."
"Corrective rape" by men in the community in attempts to "cure" women of their sexual orientation, has become commonplace, said Makhanya.
"The way these ladies are killed - no human being deserves to be killed in that way."
The highest profile case was Eudy Simelane, the former-captain of the South African national soccer team. She was one of the first women in her hometown of KwaThema, around 50 km outside of Johannesburg, to live openly as a lesbian. That was before she was brutally gang-raped and stabbed to death.
For Makhanya, who was Simelane's best friend, the killing was personal. The men who did it knew Simelane, knew her. "These are the types of men we shared beer with, we shared cigarettes with," she said.
And despite how much attention the case received, the situation has only gotten worse. "I fear every day of my life, every day -- It's a sad reality," she said.
Back to Nigeria
Makhanya was offended by the Nigerian coach's remarks, as was pretty much every other soccer player I asked during this World Cup, straight or gay.
At the same time, Makhanya understands that in South Africa, the law protects homosexuals, whereas in Nigeria, it does not. "If the constitution does not protect the gay community, what the coach did may seem like the right thing to do."
Uche is a product of a culture. In many African countries, the petitioning against homosexuality comes from the evangelical churches. As long as Africa lives and breathes with particular readings of the world's books of faith - primarily the Bible and the Koran -- there's little chance that things will change.
Uche should be held accountable for her words on an international stage, and she will be. Her reputation (and unfortunately her team's reputation) has been compromised.
But rather than trying to get Uche sacked, I think energy would be better spent in trying to sensitize the world to the issue.
Sport, and soccer in particular, has the knack of bringing people together - despite their religion, culture, or political persuasion. Perhaps we need a find a way to add sexual orientation to the list.
Follow Anjali Nayar on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/anjalinayar