Strangeness and football: now it’s all about the ball

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Written By Maya Cantina

The Munich Streetboys play as a queer team in the district division. An indoor tournament shows what it’s all about: kicking.

Football team wearing blue jerseys talking in the hall

The everyday seriousness of football: team meeting during the indoor tournament in Munich Photo: Alexander Deeg

The tournament in the Neuperlach multifunctional hall takes place just a 20-minute drive from the FC Bayern arena. Soles squeak on the hallway floor, it smells like old sneakers. A rainbow flag hangs on the railing. Only a few male voices can be heard. “I have! or “Nice pass”.

The first queer football team in the DFB league Street boys from Munich, have invited people to the indoor tournament on the occasion of World AIDS Day. Of the fifteen teams competing today, some look like the Streetboys strange teams. Others, on the other hand, are friendly, not explicitly queer clubs, against which the street boys usually compete in the district class.

Here in Neuperlach, opponents leave the field arm in arm or warmly embrace each other in greeting. You will encounter many things here that are different – ​​perhaps even better – than in professional football. Dealing with queer players, for example.

While the Streetboys are on the field playing for a place in the next round, Christoph Hertzsch flutters from one task to another in the background of the tournament. Christoph has been playing football since he was five and has been active with the Streetboys for almost nine years. The Google terms ‘gay, football, Munich’ brought him to the Streetboys: “One email, one training and I was in love – with the club,” he says and laughs briefly.

On this tournament Saturday, however, he is too busy organizing to play himself. He proudly lists the countries from which the teams for the charity tournament came: Italy, Ireland, the Czech Republic and England.

It is unusual that so many queer players and their fans from all over Europe come together for a football tournament. The last World Cup in Qatar showed all too clearly how difficult it is for football to commit to queerness: Qatar’s World Cup ambassador described homosexuality as ‘mental damage’ FIFA banned the one-love captain’s armband, which was designed as a sign of tolerance.

Found a place in the Bavarian football world

In the C-Class, where the Streetboys play, such signs of solidarity are less controversial, says Christoph Hertzsch. For example, the captain of the Heimstetten gaming club appeared on the field with a rainbow bracelet – “without any fuss,” says Christoph. The Streetboys also maintain a friendly relationship with the Heimstetten team outside of matches and sometimes drink a beer together after the final whistle. The team also traveled to the charity tournament. It is precisely these small gestures that Christoph talks about when you ask him about nice moments in the competition.

The fact that a queer football team has found its place in the Bavarian football world today was unthinkable in the early 1990s, when Streetboys was founded. Just like with a tournament like this. And in the Munich gymnasium, several allies of the queer community sit on the sidelines: fans in the pink jerseys of the Rosa Teufel football club, people with the blue-pink-white flag of the trans community in their hands, gray-haired people with rainbow fan scarves around their necks and even babies with rainbow onesies. The shirt of the Italian team Bugs Bologna reads: “We are all different”.

Someone who knows what it was like in the past is referee Hans-Jürgen Gurtowski. The tall man with hearing aids in both ears has been whistling at football matches for 44 years and has been a referee in queer football for 23 years. He is a volunteer at the Streetboys tournament. He remembers a time when gay men still faced suspicion of pedophilia if they came out of the closet. At the same time, the AIDS crisis has further fueled homophobia against gay men.

Simon Fortner, one of the senior members of the Streetboys, also reports on the obstacles the footballers faced when they were formed in 1994. “It was difficult to prove that you really only wanted your opponent’s points – and nothing more,” he says.

There were still many stereotypes about gay footballers, such as their supposedly weaker shooting power or inferior ball skills. The street boys experienced everything, from verbal to physical violence, Simon says. Now he just shrugs and says, “I was gay in the 1990s, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to when someone calls me a ‘gay bitch’.”

Playing with clichés

In 2024, the Streetboys will have existed for 30 years, and homophobic insults on the field are now the exception. For their anniversary, the Streetboys made a calendar with revealing photos of the players: the men run across the field with their buttocks or soap each other in the shower. “Sometimes you have to play with clichés,” says Christoph Hertzsch, grinning.

It’s worth it: with their calendar the Streetboys raise money for AIDS relief during their charity tournament. Ultimately you have 2,600 euros in the cash register. Yet it is not forgotten that everyone came to watch football. When you see the players on the field today, it seems absurd that gay football still has to prove itself.

In amateur football something seems possible that is far removed from the reality in professional football. Christoph Hertzsch does not have to think long about why this is the case: “It is due to the ignorance and economic interests of the large associations.”

Hans-Jürgen Gurtowski also reports that in professional football there is still the fear of losing sponsors or even having to end your career after coming out. And then there are a lot of fans in the stadiums and colleagues in the team locker room. However, in amateur football there are little to no commercial interests; players meet friends and acquaintances on the sidelines and in the locker room.

With a view to the last World Cup in Qatar, Christoph shrugs resignedly: “Above all this miserable debate about the rainbow connection is an expression of the fact that associations do not want to deal with queerness in football. Money was apparently more important than human rights at that time.” For him it is clear: not primarily the players, but FIFA and the DFB should have been on the side of the queer. “The queer community has lost all confidence in the DFB.”

The DFB has been paying lip service to it for decades. In 2012, a dialogue forum was organized entitled “Everyone is equal before the ball – sexual identities in football”. On the Christopher Street Day in Frankfurt, the DFB I have had my own car for years. In 2021, the association appointed its own contact person for sexual and gender diversity for the first time.

Only positive vibes

Christoph Hertzsch welcomes this, but considers one person to be symbolic for the approximately 7.4 million members. For him, these “positive feelings”, as he calls the DFB’s efforts, are important, but not sufficient. “Creating the necessary structures for queer players ultimately requires raising money.” Not only at international tournaments, but also at training camps, training sessions and team meetings, queerness in football must be fundamentally discussed.

The expectation that the situation at the European Championships in Germany could be better is high among many queer teams and their fans. Christoph Hertzsch says: “It is easy to point the finger at others, but above all you have to do better yourself.”

When asked how the tournament in Germany should become more queer-friendly, the European Championship organizing team mentioned a number of measures. This includes a national awareness concept that will be applied in all stadiums. In addition, a so-called Pride House is being built in Berlin as a safe place for queer people. A place where offers such as public viewings or workshops are offered. In Berlin, the lesbian and gay association LSVD is even involved in the tournament planning. “The concerns of queer people play an important role in the planning of the European Championship,” the Berlin office wrote by email.

At the tournament in Neuperlach, the Streetboys missed the final and came third. The finale is even more emotional. When a referee awarded three penalties instead of five in the final, there was strong protest. So violent that the referee excitedly left the field: “I don’t need to be insulted here!” There’s probably no better proof that queer football really is normal football.



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