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Orlando's soccer club dedicates part of stadium to Pulse nightclub victims

On 12 June, 2016, a gunman opened fire inside the nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 53 in America’s deadliest mass shooting.

Staff at Orlando City unveil the 49 rainbow-coloured seats at their stadium.
Staff at Orlando City unveil the 49 rainbow-coloured seats at their stadium.

A SOCCER CLUB in Orlando has dedicated a section of its new stadium to 49 people shot dead in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in the city last year.

Orlando City, a club in the Major League Soccer (MLS) league, unveiled the seats, which have been painted in rainbow colours to commemorate the atrocity.

On 12 June 2016, a gunman opened fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and wounding 53 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Armed with an assault rifle and a pistol, shooter Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American of Afghan descent, held police at bay for three hours until they stormed the building, killing him.

Phil Rawlins, the club’s founder and life-president, thanked staff and construction workers. He told the Orlando City SC website:

We are here to commemorate and unveil the 49 rainbow-colored seats that will sit permanently in section 12 of our stadium as a constant reminder of the senseless acts of 12 June.

“These are regular season-ticket holder seats. We put them in section 12 because obviously we felt that was pertinent,” he added.

It was 12 June last year when the tragedy happened.
They [the seats] are right down by the benches and will certainly be seen by everyone in the stadium.

In a statement on the MLS soccer website, the club said the rainbow colours symbolised the club’s mission to be an “inclusive, diverse and welcoming community”.

Homophobic

US authorities say Mateen claimed to be an “Islamic soldier” who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State. The extremist group later identified him as one of its militants.

The rainbow-coloured seats, which will act as a permanent reminder of the homophobic atrocity, will play host to fans when Orlando City host New York City FC on 5 March for the opening of the new season.

The Orlando City club may be best known in Europe as the new current club of Kaka. Now 34, the former Brazil and Real Madrid footballer who won the UEFA Champions League with AC Milan in 2007.

In June, Orlando City’s MLS game against San Jose Earthquakes was temporarily halted in the 49th minute as the whole stadium rose in unison to remember those who so tragically lost their lives.

It was the city’s first sporting event following the mass shooting.

Both teams wore purple t-shirts with #OrlandoUnited onto the pitch while also wearing rainbow and black wristbands.

With reporting from AFP. 

- © AFP, 2016

Read: Guardian journalist walks off Sky News ‘in disgust’ over Orlando killing comments

Read: Orlando shooter was investigated by the FBI twice – but still bought guns legally last week

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