The world’s largest gay global cup is coming to Regent’s Park this coming Monday.
Fifty teams from six continents will be competing for the holy grail of gay football.
The hosts, Leftfooters FC, who have played in three other IGLFA tournaments, will be taking it seriously while partying at the same time.
The club was founded in November 1999 with an informal kick about in Regent’s Park.
This inaugural kick-about was announced in a high profile article in Axiom Magazine, headlined LEFT FOOT FORWARD, which was later reproduced in the newsletter of the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) to draw further recruits.
The Leftfooters made their IGLFA debut in Copenhagen in 2005 and surprised everybody by reaching the semi-finals of the recreational league.
“Our group game against Florida Storm, the then reigning competitive league world championships is still regarded as our finest hour, losing 2-1, giving a stronger, bigger and better organised team and giving them a real scare.” club spokesman Chris Basiurski told PinkNews.co.uk.
“Knowing that we needed to level the playing field a bit, in true Leftfooters style we got them horribly drunk the night before, buying them tequilas instead of Southern Comforts and persuading them that Hoegarden was a weak European ale.”
The Leftfooters believe that this tournament will be important for raising the profile of homosexuality for a number of reasons.
“Originally the event was set up part to dispel the myth that arose after the 1980s that gay men and women were not healthy after the emergence of HIV/AIDS.
“It was also a great opportunity for gay men and women to diversify and take part in activities with like-minded people but taking part for the love of their game, not their sexual preference,” Mr Basiurski said.
“Many gay people were disenfranchised from sport due to homophobia, this kind of event helps create a safe and tolerant environment for people to play and express themselves.
“Homophobia is still rife in football and football is not well respected in the gay community.
“We are hoping to change both of these,” he added.
There is a lot of stake for the both the host team and London.
However, the team believe that having fun, making friends and playing in the right spirit is the key.
“We are not expected to win, it would be nice if we can put in some good performances, get a goal or two and try to avoid going out on penalties AGAIN!”
Birmingham Blaze are but one of the many other teams competing, but they too are no strangers to the world of international football.
It was 25th July 2005 and Birmingham was hit by its worst tornado in history.
From the ashes, Birmingham Blaze FC was forged.
Six founding members braved the elemental forces and kicked a ball in steely defiance.
They were aware that most of the major cities in England had LGBT teams and felt it was time that Second City also had one.
From its genesis, the club’s ethos has been all encompassing.
“We don’t care for talent or skill; we value enthusiasm over ability and promote fair play, inclusiveness and friendliness,” a spokesperson told the BBC when they formed.
Since then, the club has grown immensely but the pride in their values still remain.
“We describe ourselves as a ‘Community Based Club’ where everyone is welcome to join us regardless of status or ability,” club manager Fiona Washington told Pinknews.co.uk.
“This includes having mixed gender teams which is a strong statement against what we as a club see as blatant sex discrimination by the FA, who do not allow mixed football past the age of 11.
“Our philosophy is reflected by now having in place a constitution that operates with strong policies covering equality, inclusion, safety, welfare and confidentiality,” she said.
The Blaze have a great pedigree in international tournaments, being the European Champions of 2006.
The IGLFA world championship coincides with the start of the new football season, so the team will be at their peak fitness.
“I would be lying if I said that we didn’t want to win the cup.
“However all our players will get a chance to participate regardless of their ability and they are passionate about Birmingham Blaze FC,” Ms Washington said.
When asked about the championship’s role in raising the profile of the gay community, she answered positively:
“The championship offers a chance to show the UK and the rest of the World that this community is committed to equality and inclusion offering a place where everyone can participate in sport safely and without discrimination.
“It also offers a platform to challenge homophobia in football and beyond.”
Matches begin on Monday. For more information go to www.londonw2008.co.uk