Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Best Gay Football Club in the World!

British Stonewall F.C. exists almost twenty years. It is considered as the most successful team in the world in which only gays are allowed to play. The road to success was difficult. The team came together in 1991, by responding to a classified ad in gay magazine.

The British managed to combine two things that sometimes sound incompatible - football and homosexuals. Stonewall F.C. is the most successful football club in the world in which homosexual players play, exclusively, and it exists for almost twenty years.

The road to success was difficult, with insults and discrimination all the way. It all began in 1991, when in certain London’s men gay magazine, an ad was published: "I'm looking for like-minded people with whom I could play football."  Although the author himself did not believe that so many gay men who wanted to play football will answer to his ad, this short article marked the beginning of establishing a football club for those of different sexual orientations. Just a few days after the publication, a dozen young men began to train on the court, in the eastern part of London.

Some of them have, for the first time, ran after the ball, but most of them have already, in the past, played this sport – of course, before the public acknowledgment of their sexual orientation.

- It was difficult in the beginning... We have all been, several times, faced with offensive chants at the expense of homosexuals, which are heard from the football stands and which, unfortunately, are an integral part of fan culture, so, it was extremely difficult for us. We had to, literally, rise above ourselves and gather enormous courage, to be able to play on a football field - recalls Eric Armanazi, the present coach and goalkeeper of Stonewall F.C. 

Their fears were not unjustified. Only two years earlier, near their club, in a garage, Justin Fashanu hung himself – he is, until now, the only professional footballer who, in public, spoke openly about his homosexual orientation. But, the pressure, insults, discrimination and death threats, which, after his public appearances, followed, nonetheless, made him do what he did.

- During training, we often talked about it. Most of us feared for our own lives, although, in fact, we were not famous nor popular - Armanazi says, and adds that, on the start of every game they perceived humiliation of all kinds: and from the audience and from the rival team. Even the referees often judged openly at their expense.

But the courage and persistence have paid off in the end. Ten years ago, Stonewall F.C. started playing in the Middlesex County Premier Division and since then it is playing in the league just below semi-professional clubs.  They have won numerous championships, and this year in Cologne they won, for the third time, the “Gay Games", and thus, they became, the most successful gay football club in the world. Among their sponsors is an English bank Barclays, and of this financial support even a large number of English professional clubs is dreaming.

- Despite success, we are still subjected to prejudice and abuse. Football was, and still is, a typical "male" sport, reserved exclusively for heterosexuals.  The media themselves play important role in this – says Eric, and adds that homophobia is one of the rare types of discrimination in the UK that is still "normal."


They still curse them, but it is much better situation than 10 years ago.

Coach and goalkeeper of this gay team, Eric Armanazi, says that, when we compare the situation today with the one 10 or 20 years before, the difference is like heaven and earth.

The society has changed, opened, and although there is still much that is wrong, a great progress is been made.  Today, on the stadium, we can still hear the offensive words and insults at the expense of homosexuals, but it is not like before. And, if a player of the opposing team, during a match, offends us with a sentence like: "Get up, faggot!", after the game he apologizes, while before it would have been unthinkableArmanazi said.

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