By Jerry Del Priore

When the Argentine Football Association (AFA) backed Los Dogos, a non-profit Argentina LGBTQ+ friendly futbol [soccer] club, several people within the game believed it was a monumental step forward for gay sports in the country.

Based in Buenos Aires, AFA is the country’s governing body for all futbol. It organizes the main divisions of the Argentine league system, including domestic cups, Copa Argentina and Supercopa Argentina. The association also manages all the Argentine national teams, including the Senior, U-20, U-17, U-15, Olympic and Women’s squads.

Gus Penaranda, president of the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA), an organization founded to promote and foster the growth of LGTBQ+ futbol worldwide, said the connection between the two could not be understated.

“To have an organization like Los Dogos being sponsored by [AFA], that’s huge, said Penaranda. “It’s such a big deal because being gay in South America is difficult [enough]. That’s why it’s so huge.”

Penaranda called AFA’s support of Los Dogos a sign of the times, showing how things are changing for the better for LGTBQ+ sports. “When an organization that huge supports Los Dogos, that’s progress,” he said. “That would be unheard of in the 1990s.”

In addition to AFA’s prestige and acceptance, Penaranda said that Los Dogos players get to practice at the training facility used by the national team.

Former Los Dogos player Pablo Cargneletti said it gives the team a sense of pride and empowerment to have AFA positively acknowledge them, especially given how futbol-crazed the country is right now. “We feel seen, we feel recognized that they are sharing our values,” Cargneletti said. “In Argentina, soccer is a big deal. Having the national association support us is huge.”

But the connection did not happen on its own, according to Cargneletti.

“Claudio [Blanco] was key for us,” the 35-year-old graduate student at the University of Central Florida said of the present Los Dogos member. “He was talking to people, making this happen. He was more on the side of making something huge happen.”

Blanco added his thoughts while Cargneletti translated for him: “We are part of the group of national teams. We think that is a huge positive direction for us.” He added that team members not only get to wear the association’s logo on their uniforms, they are also provided with training clothes, hydration for each practice and soccer balls. Plus, the AFA helps Los Dogos organize international tournaments and puts the team in contact with its marketing staff to attract sponsors.

Noting that Los Dogos, created in 1997, had a chance several years ago to make things happen on a national level, Blanco said the club was too young and inexperienced at the time and society needed more convincing that gay futbol could be a legitimate sport.

“It would be a little more difficult to make things happen back then, but we had the opportunity,” Blanco said. “But at the time, as a team we were too immature to pursue that.”

However, said Cargneletti, that was then and this is now, giving way to a more accepting society, especially when it comes to gay-friendly sports.

“A lot of people are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community,” he explained. “I think it was a combination of the environment; our community and society,-and private and public people. Plus, having the right people on our side, and the right people at AFA. It was a matter of being accepted.”

Photos by Los Dogos