San Jose Earthquakes center-back Guram Kashia was named the inaugural recipient of the UEFA #EqualGame award on Wednesday for his support of the LGBTQ community last season.
Kashia, 31, wore a rainbow armband while playing for SBV Vitesse for the duration of the team's 2017-18 Eredivisie campaign, despite drawing a negative reaction from some in his native Georgia for the action.
The award, which will be handed out at the Champions League draw on Aug. 30 in Monaco, was created as part of UEFA's #EqualGame campaign to help ensure "that everyone has the right to enjoy football, irrespective of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, social background or religious beliefs."
Guram Kashia 🇬🇪 will receive the first ever #EqualGame award, for his unwavering support of the LGBT community 🏳️🌈 👏— UEFA (@UEFA) August 22, 2018
Read more about Guram's story
👉 https://t.co/JWpDAfLRkF... pic.twitter.com/gTHHTt2A8V
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "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."
And Kaisha told MLSSoccer.com: "[Georgians] are really religious people, and sometimes it's quite challenging to be open on certain lifestyles, what people can have.
"As long as no one harms anyone else, you can be who you want to be. It's like freedom of life. That's what I'm standing behind."