Jock Talk: IGLFA readies to mark 25 years
by Roger Brigham
As the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association gets ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary next year at the 2017 Unity Cup, the LGBT-centric soccer organization is undergoing a major refurbishing of its website, board of directors, and social mission.
"This Unity Cup is going to show the world this is not just some local organization that has an event every now and then," Gus Penaranda, acting president of IGLFA, told the Bay Area Reporter . "We have teams from London, Canada, and New York already registered and we are expecting anywhere from 35 to 50 teams."
The Unity Cup will be held in conjunction with the fourth World Outgames, May 28-June 3 in Miami. Tournament matches are scheduled to be held on fields in Tamiami Park and adjacent Florida International University venue.
This year IGLFA successfully held its world championship in August in Portland, Oregon, hosted by the NetRippers, and was one of two runners-up in international mainstream soccer's inaugural FIFA Diversity Award. Now, Penaranda said, IGLFA is looking to enlarge its social mission to do more to give back to the greater community.
Penaranda, who previously was vice president for business affairs for the association, became acting president when Canada's Kimberly Hadley stepped down after a decade as president while continuing her role as North American director of referees. The communications director and secretary positions are also currently vacant. Ben Biggs is the current treasurer. Penaranda said IGLFA plans to post job descriptions for offices early in 2017, followed by nominations and elections.
India's Slum Soccer was named winner of the FIFA Diversity Cup.
"For the past 14 years, Slum Soccer has worked primarily with socially excluded youths and we use football as a tool to engage with them," the organization's Abhijeet Barse said. "Most of these participants come from very marginalized areas and we want to make sure they are part of society. We use football to give them a platform, engage with them and slowly channel them back into society. Once you have their attention through football, it's easier to pass on messages."
IGLFA was a runner-up along with Kick It Out.
"IGLFA has two parts to its mission," Biggs said. "For over 25 years we've been putting on tournaments across the globe, working with over 100 teams to provide a safe space to LGBT athletes who want to play football together in pursuit of equality for everyone.
"The other part of what we do is work and focus attention on players and teams in parts of the world where it's not OK to be yourself, where there's challenges for personal safety and where persecution is an all too daily occurrence," Biggs added. "Football is a mass participation sport and in mass participation sports, you reflect society, so there's problems with homophobia and discrimination more widely within society. We're making progress, in tackling and stamping out homophobia."
Festivities at the Unity Cup will include videos of IGLFA's origins and social impact, Penaranda said, as the organization takes stock and figures out the best way to document its past and build its legacy.
"The New York Ramblers are one of our oldest clubs," Penaranda said. "But 25 years ago, you'd get beat up playing gay soccer in New York. A lot of players don't realize that. They don't always know what it takes to play a tournament in different parts of the world. We need people to know the impact IGLFA has had and can have. A lot of people who are now married would never have met if IGLFA never existed."
Penaranda said IGLFA is hoping to build on the sponsorship success it had at the Portland championships.
"Nike and Adidas both sponsored the Portland tournament," he said. "Nike supported us with its store and Adidas with the stadium. They are competing companies. Now we're going back to both companies seeking sponsorship for the Unity Cup."
Penaranda said IGLFA sanction has become more supportive of club tournaments and the group is looking at ways to provide arrangements for 25th anniversary uniforms, scholarship funds and team discounts.
"We want to be able to address social aspects of life at more and more events throughout the planet," he said. "Civil rights, adoption; whatever we feel needs to be addressed in a specific area. A lot of players have no clue about how bad things are in some places or how hard it is to put on tournaments, even now trying to get permits. They think they just popped up overnight."
Penaranda also said IGLFA hopes to establish its own virtual hall of fame to honor its pioneers and eventually would hope to have that established in a physical location.
Registration for the Unity Cup is open at http://www.outgames.org. For registration for the 2018 IGLFA World Championships at Gay Games X in Paris, visit http://www.paris2018.com. For more information on IGLFA, visit http://www.iglfa.org. For information on the San Francisco Spikes, the local gay soccer team, visit http://www.sfspikes.com.