The Sydney Rangers are set to become the first gay men’s team to represent Australia overseas, as they prepare to compete in the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) World Championships, held in Boston this year.

The Rangers are accustomed to setting milestones: they were also the first Australian men’s team to compete in a Gay Games. With some experience under their belt after last year’s Gay Games in Sydney, the players are setting their sights on the gay and lesbian soccer world championships.

After what happened with the Gay Games here, we decided that we’d like to be the first gay men’s team to represent Australia overseas as well, so that’s what we’re focusing on, says Rangers coach Neil O’Donnell.

With minimal preparation, the Rangers finished seventh out of the 13 teams competing in their division at the 2002 Gay Games.

A lot of the guys actually were quite surprised at how well we did, because they thought we’d get pretty much white-washed, O’Donnell says. The first time they’d actually played together was on the first day of the Games.

O’Donnell says that the experience and camaraderie that the Rangers developed while competing in last year’s Gay Games has inspired the team to make the trip to the world championships.

We forged together a really good team spirit. The competition was of a very high standard actually, he says. It was a bit of a shock for some of the guys, who had never been exposed to the physical aspect of it, but we did pretty well, and everyone just loved it.

The world championships will be played at the prestigious Harvard University from 3 to 9 August. The Rangers will compete against teams from London, Paris, Belgium and various teams from the United States.

The competitions are pretty intense. You can play two or maybe three shorter matches during one day, and after a few days it really starts to take its toll. It’s a very exciting thing to do, O’Donnell says.

With the players we’ve got and the determination that the team has, I think we’ll have a fairly decent showing, he says. I don’t expect to win, it’d be nice if we did, but I think my expectations at the moment are to get a team there, take part and enjoy it.

One of the biggest challenges for the Rangers is putting a team together. The players have to cover their own costs, and at the moment the team is yet to register the number of players required to compete.

The problem we’ve got at the moment is that we need 15 players to register a team, and we’ve only got about 10, O’Donnell says.

Rangers’ striker Adam Balsamo says that the trip to the world championships is a test of commitment for the team.

The Gay Games was easy because it was in Sydney, whereas with this we have to travel halfway across the world, he says. I think the people who do make the effort to go will really be there to enjoy the experience. So hopefully we can play some good soccer and have lots of fun -“ both on and off the field.

O’Donnell jokes that you just can’t get gay guys to commit, but he is still confident of the tour going ahead.

It’s pretty definite that we’ll get there, we’re just not sure how many at the moment, he says.

The Sydney Rangers were founded in 1997, and play socially every Sunday afternoon at Moore Park. They have also recently begun playing in a local indoor soccer competition. O’Donnell says that competing overseas will hopefully be the start of bigger and better things for the club.

My hopes for the future are to actually get a full gay team to be playing in the amateur leagues. It takes time, but I suppose this season is the furthest along that path that we’ve ever been, he says. When that happens, we’re going to be in a better situation to really be competitive in international championships.

For further information on the Sydney Rangers visit www.sydneyrangers.com.

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