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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 September 2007, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Gay football World Cup kicks off
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

London Leftfooters (red) play the Argentina Dogos
This is the first time the gay cup has been played in Latin America
The gay World Cup has kicked off in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, showcasing more than 500 footballers from 28 countries.

Teams from North and South America, Europe and Australia are competing. Some take football very seriously and some just want to have fun.

There are a lot of games crammed into a week of football with six matches at a time being played at Sarmiento Park.

It is the first time the cup has been held in Latin America.

Gay-friendly city

The slogan of the Mexican team perhaps best sums up the spirit of the gay football world cup - "the ball is round for everyone".

The referees, many of them women, suffer the same level of abuse as their colleagues in the professional leagues.

At the venue flags from the countries represented are draped around the perimeter fence.

The Chileans wave a huge national flag, the Sydney Rangers wave an inflatable yellow kangaroo and the Leftfooters from London have a small contingent of beer-drinking fans with them.

Eric Armanazi
It's a fun event aimed at gay people from all over the world
Eric Armanazi
Stonewall FC

Eric Armanazi is manager and goalkeeper for the current gay world champions, London-based Stonewall FC.

He asked: "Why gay football? Why gay anything? It's a fun event aimed at gay people from all over the world.

"I don't think there's difficulties now compared to 10 or 15 years ago, from the stories I hear.

"I certainly haven't encountered what I would call open, mass homophobia. Yes, out of order behaviour - that should be punished more than it is by referees."

This is the first time the gay World Cup has been played in Latin America and it is enjoying the support of the Argentine Football Association - something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

But Buenos Aires is fast earning a reputation as a gay-friendly city and its love for football is second to none.

Jim, from the New York Ramblers, said gay football had attracted a lot of support in his home city.

"In New York people are very accepting of us and we actually play in several straight leagues where for the most part people know what we're about and they understand.

"Actually a lot of times when we say that we're this gay team, they actually think it's cool in New York - like, wow, there's even a gay team."

The president of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association, Tomas Gomez, was keen to counteract the stereotyped view that gay football is somehow less aggressive than straight football.

"We gays are also very macho," he said.

"Gays have been playing football for a very long time. Gay people play soccer, play basketball, swimming, so this is nothing new for us."

Also built into the week-long tournament are discussions on homophobia in football and a number of parties.

Player and press accreditation was done in a restaurant while the closing ceremony will take place in a nightclub.

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04 Aug 07 |  Americas
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08 May 07 |  West Midlands


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