Dulwich Hamlet took a break from their Ryman Premier campaign to host their first anti-homophobia friendly match on Wednesday. The South London side played host to Stonewall FC, Britain’s first openly gay men’s football team and winners of the 2014 Gay Games World Cup.
The contest marked another milestone for Dulwich who became the first non-league team to publically back the Rainbow Laces drive last year. The campaign, which aims to kick anti-gay abuse out of football, was backed by more than 70 professional players including stars from Arsenal and Manchester City.
Stonewall Football Club coach Eric Nabir welcomed the Pink and Blues’ efforts to combat homophobia on and off the pitch. Nabir believes while the situation has improved since he joined the club in 2001, work still needs to be done to fight discrimination within football and the media.
“Discrimination is an issue that still needs to be tackled. While it has decreased I wouldn’t say it has gone completely because it hasn’t. We used to get certain teams who, probably because they have never been put into a situation of meeting gay people, made it clear they felt uncomfortable around us.
“But compared to how it was when I first joined the club, things have improved a million per cent and Stonewall FC now gets huge respect from teams who have gradually become more accepting.
“We still get such bad stereotyping of gay people within the media with this perception that gay men have to be camp or effeminate. A lot of the teams we play against are surprised that, actually, we are just a group of guys who want to play football.
“While they were slightly late to the party the FA (Football Association) have been good about helping to raise awareness of homophobia, particularly in the last 18 to 24 months. They have really made it a big point to deal with homophobia in football in the same way racism was addressed a few years ago
“Even though racism has not been totally eradicated, it’s great to be able to go to a football game and not hear en masse racist behaviour. We are now along the way of dealing with that in terms of homophobia”.
A 6-0 loss for the visiting team failed to dampen the spirits of Stonewall FC’s boisterous supporters. The away fans were in full voice along with Hamlet’s drum-banging, flag-waving ultras. The highlight of the match was a light-hearted conga that appeared to include a mix of home and away supporters. Dulwich Hamlet’s efforts to tackle homophobia have been backed by the club’s players and manager Gavin Rose.
“I think this is brilliant. We have shown ourselves to be a community club and all-inclusive club. We want everyone to come here and feel welcome”, says Rose. “Football is about community and society and it’s important that more clubs come out and show the sport is accepting of everybody”.
To follow both clubs on Twitter go to @StonewallFC and @DulwichHamletFC