The world’s largest gay football event got underway with a series of matches on Bank Holiday Monday in Regents Park.
The International Gay and Lesbian Football Association championship has seen 40 male and female teams from every continent, competing in three different leagues; the Men’s First and Second Divison and the Women’s Division.
Tournament favourites for the Men’s First Division are SAFGay Argentina, Stonewall FC, Florida Storm and Samurai Japan.
Stonewall will play the Argentinians in tomorrow’s final at Leyton Orient’s Matchroom stadium tomorrow.
In the Women’s Division, Gay Games silver medallists Hackney WFC are strong contenders but a Chosen FEW, a team from Soweto, South Africa, who are taking part via the Outreach scholarship programme, have brought two strong squads to London.
From the off, footballers, fans and organisers have had plenty to cheer about.
The first two days saw floods of goals and some excellent results for the two English clubs competing in the top flight.
The London Falcons ended day one sharing the top spot with SAFGay Argentina, after both teams had won all their matches.
Peter Tatchell’s favourites, Stonewall Lions, performed strongly on both days, thrashing Stockholm Snipers 7-0 and then beating the favoured Argentine side 2-0.
Across the pitch, the women’s favourites Hackney WFC started the stronger in their game against Bent… Like Beckham winning 3-0.
Bent… Like Beckham did come back into their own after winning against Alexandra Park 2-0.
The weather conditions on the third day of the tournament were almost perfect.
Even the Mexican team agreed.
All day it had been overcast and cool.
As the important 3:00pm clashes began, a little sunlight crept out from behind the clouds.
The atmosphere in Regents Park was teeming with excitement.
Stonewall and the Falcons bagged some great results early on in the day, which clinched them both a place in the semi-finals.
Later on, the two teams clashed, but because both were through, the result would be irrelevant.
However, Stonewall continued their run of patient, probing football which saw them score three beautifully developed goals.
The Falcons were on the backfoot throughout as Stonewall passed the ball about freely.
After the match, Pinknews.co.uk spoke to Stonewall FC co-founder Roger Taylor:
“It’s great to see gay people can take part in sport at a reasonable level.
“But we hope to win the championship because we lost in the final in Argentina last year,” he said.
After losing to Stonewall in the morning, Samurai needed a result against Toronto Titans who, results wise, were on a level playing field.
Both defended strongly, however, in the last five minutes Samurai number 10, Toki, scored a long-range lob which sent Samurai fans into a frenzy.
On the sideline, Pinknews.co.uk spoke to his ecstatic teammate, Jim Capitanos:
“Samurai are the nicest bunch of guys I’ve ever played with.
“I am from England and there are no problems with the language barrier,” he said
“This championship means a lot to the club.
“These guys only get together for these kinds of tournaments and the players are spread out all over Japan,” he added.
The biggest surprise of the day came when one of the competition favourites, Florida Storm were knocked out by Argentina.
The game was hard fought match and came down to the wire, however, the South Americans won 4-3..
“Argentine teams always look for a win.
“We always enjoy playing soccer, but we always look for a win,” SAFGay Argentina defender Remi Sarilla told Pinknews.co.uk.
In the women’s league, the South African team Chosen Few 2 had to pull out of the competition due to injury.
The four remaining teams had an energised day of football.
Competition favourites Hackney lost out to Chosen Few 2-1.
Bent…Like Beckham pulled one win out of the hat, beating Alexandra 2-0.
Despite the competitive nature of the tournament, a friendly spirit lightened the proceedings.
Pinknews.co.uk spoke to Social and Cultural events manager, Joe Brady, who was proud of Leftfooters FC, the club who organised the championship.
“This is the biggest gay sporting event in the country.
“What we are most proud about is giving three teams the opportunity to play by the funds we made through Outreach!,” he said.
“Those teams were TRIGay Mexico, Friends from Prague and Chosen Few from South Africa.”
The Leftfooters who fielded three teams enjoyed a less than successful start, suffering defeats in all their opening games.
The sport will continue until the finals tomorrow at Leyton Orient Football Club.