No Need for Crying in Argentina
BY David Luc Nguyen
October 30 2007 12:00 AM ET
buffed-out guys packed their bags and descended on Buenos
Aires the last week of September in hopes of
scoring...a goal. Twenty-eight teams representing 18
countries competed in the International Gay and
Lesbian Football Association World Championship
tournament in Argentina. Or, as we call it in the
States, soccer. This is the first time a South
American country has played host to the event, which
had the biggest turnout of teams in the
championship’s 16-year history. Athletes from
Australia, the U.S., and across Europe came to Buenos
Aires; Iceland, Uruguay, Chile, and Mexico made their
first appearances at the international competition.
Sorry to say, the women’s event was canceled after
not garnering enough teams to make it a viable
competition. A few women did get to play, though, in a
couple of “mixed” teams.
In a country
where football is more than just a sport, many might think
there would be a lot of opposition to hosting the gay
athletic competition in this heavily Catholic country.
It was just the opposite.
football association endorsed the gay competition. It backed
up that endorsement by donating all of the uniforms for the
Argentinean teams, providing referees for the matches,
and allowing the championship match to be played at
its official stadium. Imagine an American sports
organization like the NFL or NBA sponsoring a gay or lesbian
corporate sponsors were not hard to come by, either. Delta
Air Lines stepped up to be the championships'
primary sponsor; officials from the company also used
the event as an opportunity to introduce its new
site that caters to gay and lesbian travelers.
Though the play
on the field was serious and determined, the city of
Buenos Aires was not. The people were extremely gracious
hosts, and every district we visited was very
progressive and gay-friendly. That may be due in part
to Argentina’s capital becoming the first city in
Latin America to legally recognize same-sex couples.
Away from the
competition, players got to kick off their cleats and take
in the sights of the refreshingly beautiful and clean
city. My boyfriend and I decided to visit
San Telmo square, one of the city’s oldest
neighborhoods. The narrow streets are stone-paved, and the
buildings lining the corridors are a mixture of old-world
Spanish and Italian architecture with a little bit of
New Jersey sprinkled here and there. The usually
laid-back neighborhood takes on an entirely different
feel on Sundays, when it becomes home to the city’s
largest antique flea market.