By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
A few weeks ago during the Compete Sports Diversity Summit, Gus Penaranda, president of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association made a big announcement for the future of LGBTQI soccer. In the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast, Penaranda and openly gay referee, Ryan Atkin, share more about the big news and what it means for the future of LGBTQI sport.
The big news, of course, is that the 2024 IGLFA World Championships will be hosted in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the full support of the Argentina Football Association. This is the first time a major international LGBTQI sports event being hosted in South America has received such strong support from one of the worlds most successful football associations.
In terms of LGBTQI sports, South America has largely been underrepresented, with most major LGBTQI sports organizations having never held an event in South America. At international multi-sport events such as Gay Games, the representation from South American athletes participating has also been small. This has slowly been changing in the recent years as communities are starting to self-organize and emerge around different sports, most notably in football. These communities are ready to show themselves on the world stages of LGBTQI sports. The IGFLA World Championships coming to Buenos Aires is a big step to make that happen.
Penaranda highlights that even today, being LGBTQI is not accepted or safe to be open everywhere; mentioning the security precautions at the Paris 2018 Gay Games due to the threat of anti-LGBTQI violence and protests (thankfully of which there were no incidents). LGBTQI sports events and communities represent a safe place where people can play and be athletes without the stress and burden of the fear of being outed or discriminated against. In turn, the growth and representation of LGBTQI sports events and communities have been instrumental in “changing hearts and minds” of people and communities who might have not always been accepting.
IGLFA is “beaming” about hosting their World Championships in Buenos Aires with the full support of the Argentina Football Association, a national governing body because of the level of support and validation this represents. Especially in the progress and impact that LGBTQI sports events and communities like IGFLA have had. Penaranda emphasizes that these events exist and the people who work hard to make them happen do it for the love of the sport.
Hosting the IGFLA Championships in South America is especially personal for Penaranda because of his own family lineage and cultural connection to South America. Penaranda, himself hails from Peru, grew up playing football but struggled to find a connection between his LGBTQI identity and his love for football but ultimately led him to reject football. He recalled a story where a family friend who found out about their son being gay, and the discussion revolved around some horrific acts in response to him being gay. Still in the closet himself at that time, this experience had a big impact on Penaranda that reminded him that the world was not so accepting of LGBTQI people. After relocating from Peru to New York City, he returned to sport when he learned to accept himself and found an LGBTQI friendly football club that he could join.This experience has helped drive Penaranda’s work with IGLFA and ensuring that LGBTQI people have a safe, accepting, and inclusive place to be and play sport.
2020 represented a year of change and a fresh start for IGFLA who took the lockdown as an opportunity to refresh their website, refocus their priorities as an organization and lead to the announcement for the 2024 World Championships. Penaranda encourages local LGBTQI football clubs around the world to connect with IGFLA, reach out to host local events and share the IGFLA logo, pictures and news of the organization to encourage more people to get involved and build awareness for LGBTQI sports.
IGFLA’s next big event will be the 2022 World Indoor Championships next January at the Sin City Classic and the 2023 North American Championships in St. Pete, Florida. Learn more about IGFLA at www.iglfa.org and get involved with the organization today.