I think I was always meant to play soccer. There is a favourite story in our family of when my mother was eight months pregnant with me and she was watching my dad’s soccer team play.
She didn’t agree with a decision by the ref, so she ran out on the field with an umbrella and attacked him.
My entire family had a passion for soccer. My father ran a soccer club for years; one sister played; and another sister was a ref. I also have a brother-in-law who is a ref with the national league. It is in my blood and there is no escaping it.
One of the things I loved most about soccer was it brought the whole family together -“ we all did it and loved it. While I loved watching the game, watching the soccer players was also great too.
My sisters would sit there saying he’s hot! about various guys, and I would watch too, knowing everything they were talking about.
At school, I played all kinds of sports and kicked a soccer ball around every day, but it was at age 16 I decided to play soccer again with a club. I kept playing after I left school and made lots of friends throughout the league.
I later travelled overseas for my big European adventure, and when I got back in 2002, I wanted to get back into sport. I first decided to give basketball a go, but I was hopeless at it.
Then I found out about the gay soccer team the Sydney Rangers and joined just before the Gay Games.
The Gay Games reaffirmed for me that being gay in Sydney was okay. That moment of walking into the stadium when everyone was cheering was a highlight of my life, and something I will always remember.
The Sydney Rangers has always had a good philosophy that none of us are world champions and we discourage the bitchy behaviour we have seen on some of the American teams.
We would rather encourage players to spend time on developing skills and working as a team. But queens do get precious and we all have out moments, and I think it is just accepted that occasionally someone can turn!
There are about 20 of us and the majority are there because they just want to play soccer. There are some people who have never played before and have developed really well, and we always welcome new players. We do not have a philosophy of only the best players. With us, it is about participation.
The fact we are all gay is beside the point. When we play, we don’t announce to the other team we are -˜the gay team’. If they know, it’s fine. But it is not something we need to advertise. We are there to play.
Since 2002, we have also competed every year at the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association, which is a little like the gay World Cup. In 2003, we played in Boston and won the Silver Medal.
I returned to work after that tour, and many of my co-workers were very excited and gathered around to know how we went. It was another time I realised being gay and living in Sydney is a privilege. We are very lucky.
Eight of us will now form the core of a team to play at the World Outgames in Montreal, with the remainder of the team made up of players from other countries we have a good affinity with.
Having played together in a competitive environment over the past few years will make us much more competitive in Montreal.
I think we will play well and probably push ourselves into the bottom end of the first division, and then end up playing some of the European teams who are incredibly good.
We give it our best, but we really can’t compete at that level. Still, I think we will be happy if we get through to the quarter-finals.
When the Sydney Rangers make it to the season finals in Sydney, I always bring my mum along, and I can’t help but laugh as I watch her in the stands.
She sits there and if the other team is taking a penalty shot, she will whisper, miss, miss, miss, hoping they don’t get it. And if my sisters come along, they scream from the sidelines too. Everyone on the team can tell when my family are watching us.
For more information visit the Sydney Rangers website.
Interview by John Burfitt