By Associated Press

About 500 amateur athletes from all over the world gather in soccer-crazed Buenos Aires to participate in tournament

Players on the London Titans gay soccer team dance during the inauguration of the World Gay Soccer Championship in Buenos Aires on Monday, Sept. 24 (NATACHA PISARENKO/Associated Press)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina Hundreds of amateur athletes from around the world kicked off the gay “World Cup” on Monday, Sept. 24, in soccer-crazed Argentina.

Waving a rainbow flag symbolic of the gay community, the cheering players began play at a park in Buenos Aires which in 2002 became the first Latin American city to approve same-sex civil unions.

“There’s the polemic that gay people are supposed to be effeminate and not play sports,” said Matt Borkowski, a 36-year-old playing with a Philadelphia squad. “But we’re here to embrace sports and show you can be gay and be sporty at the same time.”

About 500 athletes, representing 28 city squads such as the San Francisco Spikes, New York Ramblers, London Leftovers and Sydney Rangers, are taking part in the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association World Soccer Championships, which run through Saturday, Sept. 29.

Some U.S. and European participants said they were excited to compete in a country that is one of South America’s soccer powers, along with archrival Brazil.

“You immediately raise your status here in Argentina by being a soccer player,” said referee Christine Suter.

In recent years Argentina has become a hotspot for gay tourism with Buenos Aires being seen, as widely tolerant of gays although some discrimination remains.

First held in 1991, the tournament has received backing from the world soccer association FIFA and will be hosted next year in London.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 28, 2007 сайтрегистрация сайта в гугле