A lineup made up of some of the best players in gay and gay-friendly soccer in the UK has triumphed over a team of members of parliament.
The friendly match was held on Tuesday morning (19 March) in London, organized on the one-year anniversary of the Football Association launching their anti-homophobia campaign 'Opening Doors and Joining In'.
The Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) squad, who wore Stonewall ‘Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!’ t-shirts, won 3-1, leading the game early in the first half.
While it was a damp and muddy pitch, the Parliament side came back strong in the second 45 minutes managing to effectively defend against the relentless opposition.
Kristian Hermanowytch, Ben Powell and another person who didn't want to be named for fear it would hurt his career scored for the gays in the first 30 minutes. While John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington, scored the only goal for Parliament FC early on in the second half.
Speaking to Gay Star News, Chair of GFSN Chris Basiurski, said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted. It’s a really good score.
‘The lads put in an excellent effort and it was played in the best of spirits. It gives a great confidence to the rest of the league and to gay people up and down the country that they can play football and win against really good opposition.’
Ed Connell, the captain of the GFSN squad, told GSN if there was anything the two teams could do to make people understand gays are playing competitive sport, the better.
‘When these sorts of events get a bit of public attention, people think a) gays are participating, and b) they can do it pretty well,’ he said.
Chris Heaton-Harris, a Conservative MP for Daventry, said it was a ‘fantastic game’ and felt exactly about the GFSN side what he would feel about any other team ‘especially about a team that you lose against’.
‘It’s remarkable how few players there are in the top echelons of football who haven’t come out at all, and there must be some,’ he added. ‘It wasn’t that long ago there weren’t many black players in Premier League football. And it’s just a case of get on with it, it’s no big deal, it’s just a part of life.’
Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East and is also openly gay, is the captain of the Parliament team.
‘This game is making a statement that football has to get more pro-active and more vocal about the whole issue of homophobia at this level and at the professional level as well,’ the 63-year-old told GSN.
‘We’ve spoken to the Professional Football’s Association and they are very aware there are gay people in the game, and of course people know who they are, but there’s no feeling of mobility to come out and keep up playing at a professional level.
‘That has got to happen, and the managers and clubs have got to understand and support people in that situation.’
He added: ‘To put it this way, it’s very often difficult for someone who is gay in their teens and early 20s to come out to family and friends but at least they can do it in relative privacy.
‘To come out and walk out before 20,000 people, with most of them not supporting you, on a Saturday afternoon and wondering what reaction you’re going to get, that’s a whole different situation.
‘Once it’s happened, I think it will become the norm. The first player to get it probably anticipates a huge horrible reaction, and that might be true. How football deals with that is very important.’
Worldwide, the only two male players to continue playing professionally are Swedish player Anton Hysén and Englishman Justin Fashanu, who committed suicide in 1998.
Other players to have come out include American David Testo, German Marcus Urban, Norwegian Thomas Derling, and Frenchman Olivier Rouyer, but only after they finished playing professionally.
Robbie Rogers came out as gay earlier this year, but also chose to retire at the age of 25 in the same statement.