Thursday, August 28, 2008

IGLFA World Championship

This August London is hosting the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association's World Championship. The final is to take place this Saturday at Leyton Orient FC in east London and the British team, Stonewall FC, which won the European Gay Football Championship last month, is strongly tipped to win.

The world title event has the official backing of the Football Association.

Forty teams from all over the world are competing (32 male and eight female); representing the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Uganda, Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Japan and Australia.

The qualifying matches are played in Regent's Park and the finals at Leyton Orient's league ground, the Matchroom Stadium, on Saturday 30 August.

The Opening Ceremony on Sunday took place at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on Sunday 24 August, and the Closing Ceremony will take place at the Area nightclub in Vauxhall on Saturday 30 August.

Gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is backing the London IGLFA 2008 championships: "Unlike mainstream football, in the gay championships the British teams are world beaters. We've just won the European Gay Football Championship and are on course to pull off the world title next week. It's great to see our gay teams bringing home the trophies.

"I'm confident that Stonewall FC will avenge England's dismal performance against the Czech's on Wednesday night by winning gold for Britain. This championship brings together lesbian and gay football teams from across the world, encourages more gay people to get involved in the sport and, through the spending power of visiting teams and spectators, benefits the London economy.

"It challenges the machismo and homophobia that is often associated with football in many parts of the world. Gay footballers help break down stereotypes and prejudice. They are ambassadors for gay inclusion and equality. Gay football enhances understanding and acceptance of gay and lesbian people," said Mr Tatchell.

The Football Association has been a supporter of London IGLFA 2008 from the very beginning, providing technical assistance and advice for the bid, and hosting the official launch in 2007 when London was announced as the host city.

The FA will also be providing the referees and officials for the event and will be hosting a reception for the Outreach teams.

The event has received a grant from the National Lottery "Awards for All" and the support of the Metropolitan Police Service, Camden Council, Aviva insurance group, Visit London, the anti-racist football campaign Kick It Out and Don Foster MP, the Liberal Democrats Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. Nike is the official kit supplier.

The gay London football team, Leftfooters, is the host club for the world championships. A spokesperson said: "We have been spreading the word that football can be an inclusive and enjoyable sport regardless of ability, skill, technique or sexuality.
We attempt to mix a serious love of football, with a wish to promote a strong community spirit where taking part is more important than winning."

In 2006, Leftfooters FC was voted "Gay Sports Team of the Year" by the readers of the Pink Paper, while London 2008 Team Chair Mikey Collins was nominated for "Gay Sports Personality of the Year" in 2006 and 2007.

The successful bid to host the IGLFA World Championship was nominated for Stonewall Sports Personality of the year in 2007.

Leftfooters added: "The London 2008 team is dedicated to providing a world class event which will show that London can provide a safe and welcoming environment, which pushes the boundaries of tolerance and acceptance and which encourages gay men and women to promote themselves in a positive and healthy manner.

"We firmly believe that football should be enjoyable for all, free from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and accessible to people of all backgrounds and all sporting abilities.

"We look forward to staging an event which can be both competitive and fun and hope to leave a lasting legacy, gaining the respect and recognition of the participation of gay men and women in sport and in the wider community," said Leftfooters.

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