By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)

The second of the two-part IGLFA World Championships is gearing up to take place this February in Sydney, Australia. held in conjunction with the famous Sydney Gay Mardi Gras that is also hosting the 2023 World Pride. The first half of the IGLFA World Championships took place in June 2022 in Washington DC as part of the DC Pride and contested the 7v7 division of football. Check out our interview with the organizers of the DC IGLFA World Championships here.

Now the logo has been flipped, as has the location now in Sydney, Australia to contest the 11v11 division of the World Championships of LGBTQ+ soccer. The co-hosting duties were the result of two strong bids from both Washington DC and Sydney, Australia that ultimately resulted in both hosts agreeing to share the annual event together and creating the “antipode” which is the direct opposite of something. Very appropriate for both locations.

We caught up with co-organizer of the Sydney event and board member of the Flying Bats women’s football club, Sarah Midgely to learn more.

Dirk Smith (DS): If look back in June 2022, I did an interview with the co-organizers of the first half of the IGLFA World Championships in DC. With that in mind, I’ll start off here the same way I started off there, how did that whole thing come about with co-hosting, the whole “antipode” concept and such?

Sarah Midgley (SM): We wanted to create a two-part tournament that connects us across the world, so we were able to discuss and agree to have 7v7 in Washington, DC, and then 11v11 in Sydney. Our goal was to create that connection and offer an opportunity for people to participate in the small size games and then the full game as well since at a normal tournament you can only choose one or the other. Plus, we knew that with World Pride in Sydney in 2023, it would be a nice way to build a worldwide connection celebrate the end of the two-part IGLFA World Championships at Sydney Gay Mardi Gras/ World Pride 2023.

DS: Wonderful! And I really love how it is about opening the game for athletes to play both 7v7 and 11v11 rather than just choosing one. Speaking of World Pride, I attended the World Pride 2021 in Copenhagen, which also hosted the Eurogames as part of it. How does it feel to be able to organize this as a part of the grander World Pride event and putting them all together?

SM: It’s exciting! We’re really keen to have it as part of the sports program as there’s a whole bunch of amazing LGBTQ+ sports events happening for World Pride in Sydney. We’re excited to be part of that program of events, and I think having the tournament coincide with World Pride, while being part of it, is going to provide a very positive and inspiring message and elevate it across the world. Especially to communities who don’t have the some of the rights that we enjoy in Australia and in some parts of the world, but to keep that conversation going.

We’re very fortunate and grateful to be in positions we are in, and we acknowledge that privilege in having supportive laws that enable us to live our lives safely and fairly. But we must also acknowledge that even in countries with progressive laws, we don’t always have full equality in practice and often do experience discrimination and exclusion When we do live as our authentic selves and having this platform with the tournament as part of that platform, it will help us elevate the message that discrimination of any type shouldn’t be tolerated. We will elevate the message that we need to continue to work to do more around the world and at home to reduce discrimination in sports for LGBTQ people, particularly some of our more marginalized communities.

I think that’s something that, as tournament organizers, we’re keen to discuss throughout the tournament. We’re planning to have a diversity and inclusion panel event where we can bring speakers together to talk about some of these issues, especially for our transgender and gender diverse members of our communities here in Australia. Our football clubs here in Australia, Flying Bats and Sydney Rangers Football Clubs, alongside Pride Football Australia provide a safe space for people, but what can we do across clubs nationally and internationally to provide that space? How can we provide the lessons we learned and the experiences we have, as members of the LGBTQ+ community to help other clubs to foster that positive environment?

DS: I think this is one of the strengths of co-hosting this event with Washington DC. By co-hosting such a big event on the opposite side of the world, you can reach out to a different part of the community that may not be able to afford to travel all the way to North America. I feel like Gay Games co-hosting between Guadalajara and Hong Kong will have the same benefit and power to expand LGBTQ+ sport like this. Is there any particular countries or areas within the Australian Asian Pacific region that you know are going to come to participate in Sydney that may not otherwise have gone to DC?

SM: We’re open for registrations now and we’re currently engaging with a whole bunch of teams, who are keen to participate. So far, we’ve had some great early registrations and we’ve have had a lot of registrations from the US which has been really positive. We are engaging with teams in New Zealand and teams in the Asia Pacific region that want to participate. Even nationally, like Australia’s massive, so we’re trying to get representation from across Australia. Like you said, it can be hard for some of our own club members and people within Australia to make it all the way over, for financial or other reasons. So, this event provides an opportunity to spread the message of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport and in soccer while connecting with people to that global community as well.

DS: Indeed, that’s what Gay Games Hong Kong is trying to do since it had to build an LGBTQ+ sports community in Asia from scratch. Since Asia, while not close, but closer, than other western countries, Australia is in that unique position to say, “maybe it’s easy to be able to connect with maybe some of these organizations and offer a tournament that’s a little more accessible than.

SM: Yes! We hope this is the start of building out those networks and having this chance to promote that we are here. The Pacific is on our doorstep so there’s a lot of work we could do in engaging with women’s teams as well. Women’s football is going to be massive in 2023 with the Women’s World Cup being held in Australia and New Zealand. We are also very keen to reach out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia and First Nations peoples from across the international LGBTIQA+ football community. We are focusing on how we can engage with these different communities across Australia to be part of the tournament and to also engage more broadly from there. Anybody who wants to participate, make those connections and then build from there into the future.

DS: Wonderful! Forgive the pivot here, but tell me more about the Flying Bats?

SM: The Flying Bats are a women’s and non-binary club that was started about 40 years ago in the early 1980s. Thestory goes is that some lesbians got together in Sydney’s Inner West and decided to start a football team. They just had a group of friends there and started to get together and play football. As they describe it, anyone who could walk basically, was welcome and it started off as a real grassroots sort of social team. They also like to described themselves as a ragtag little team that got together and entered into the football association, so to be an identified lesbian team.

We are very proud and grateful to have always had a strong trans and gender diverse representation in our club from its very roots all the way through to today. We’re a fully inclusive, queer club, and probably one of one of the biggest collections of lesbian, queer women and non-binary soccer players you can find. It’s been a long history and has always been driven by volunteers. Some of our founding members, were members of what we call in Australia, “The 78ers.” They are the courageous pioneers who marched in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. It started as a sort of the community get together to create a celebratory pride, but it turned into a riot because the police retaliated against this. So, some of those people who were at that original parade/riot and part of that amazing history actually founded our club as well. They are the real trailblazers who created this space for queer people to come together. So, we are happy to be still connected with them today and reconnected with them as part of our 30th anniversary a few years ago.


DS: That’s amazing! I know that the Washington DC Championships had one of the largest turnouts of women’s football in IGFLA history, even though it was only half of the tournament given ya’ll are the antipode of each other. Do you have a lot of women’s teams that are coming?

SM: We’d love to, absolutely, it’s been one of our key goals. I’ve been working with many of my Flying Bat’s teammates to promote amongst our networks and connecting with international networks as well in women’s football to get the message out. If people can spread the word, then we welcome it. We’d love to see the women’s and non-binary representation increase in the tournament as well as the diversity of women and LGBTQ+ people representative in the tournament. So, we are trying to reach out to groups who may not be connected to our communities to help people see and feel that it’s a safe and inclusive place for everyone.

DS: Wonderful! Is there anything else you’d like to share?

SM: The tournament is from the 20th to the 24th. of February 2023. On the 19th of February is the start of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ fair day, which is a huge event in Sydney. So, if people are coming into the tournament plan to come on the 19th of February to enjoy the festival then on the 20th, the games kickoff. It’s going to be jam packed full of fun. We’re having an opening party on the Monday night; we’ll have the diversity inclusion panel during the week. And then just immerse us in all the exciting things that are happening for World Pride as well all the football. It’s going to be huge.

Photo Credit: IGLFA 2023 Sydney World Championships