Argentina hosts gay 'World Cup' of soccer

Monday, September 24th 2007, 6:02 pm
By: News On 6

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Hundreds of amateur athletes from around the world kicked off the gay ``World Cup'' on Monday 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.

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.

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