Members of Europe’s first openly gay women’s football team have spoken of the importance of the pioneering club as it launches a new kit.
February marks LGBT History Month as well as Football Against Homophobia Month.
Both offer those associated with Hackney Women’s Football Club (HWFC) the opportunity to showcase their valuable contribution to the LGBT scene.
The team recently teamed up with creative agency WeAreFearless to design and unveil a new kit on February 16, which represents HWFC’s position as a ‘football pioneer’.
“The kit has our slogan on the sleeve – Playing with Pride since 1986 – it has the flag of progress, the black triangle reclaimed by lesbians,” player Megan Kapadia, 24, who lives in Islington, told PA.
“To embody what our club stands for through the kit is really cool.”
The club colours, which are red and black, are also used as the main colors in the kit.
Chris Paouros, who was the team’s manager from 1997-2002 and again from 2011-2013, added: “It’s great to see all the incredible detail on the kit because HWFC is such an important part of LGBT history in this country ».
Ms Pauros said that when she moved to London, she struggled to connect with other lesbians until her flatmate told her about HWFC.
“I thought, I like football, I’ll join and now I have lifelong friendships,” the 49-year-old said.
“I even met my wife there who has since passed away and others have had relationships, babies and many other strong connections have been made through the football team and to see her continue to thrive is just wonderful.”
The club was founded in 1986 and has around 100 players in three teams – first team, reserves and development team.
Ms Pauros added that football – more broadly – helps people feel like they are part of a community.
“And that’s whether you’re a fan or a player and that’s why you can’t underestimate grassroots football,” she said.
“And a lot of times, that’s reserved for boys and so to have a women’s soccer team that’s been around for so long and more importantly, a lesbian soccer team, creates such an important sense of belonging for so many reasons.”
Ms Kapadia said she hoped footballers coming out soon were no longer something to be announced.
“It doesn’t have to be a big announcement because it’s not – it’s just who people are.”
Ms Pauros added that the importance of many of the Lionesses – who won the Euros – being out “cannot be understated”.
“We also see that there’s a lot of feminisation of female footballers and the notions of men maybe not feeling like they’re going to be seen as macho because they’re gay.
“And we want to break down those gender stereotypes.”
Rebecca Sowden, women’s sporting director at WeAreFearless said: “Part of building a better future for women’s football is recognizing the work that has been done in the past.
“So it was a huge privilege to meet these extraordinary women who are championing this incredible space for LGBTQ+ women.
“We are excited to partner with like-minded advocates for equal opportunities for everyone on the playing field, regardless of how they identify.”
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