SÃO PAULO — Members of a São Paulo-based LGBTIQ volleyball team are hoping to make it to next month’s Gay Games in Paris.
Born a decade ago, Angels Volley began when people who appreciated the sport and wanted to improve their game met. Gradually the group started getting stronger and more LGBTIQ-identified as more people started to get together and bring their experience in volleyball — some of the members played professionally for a while — and gave birth to the team that is now called Angels Volley.
But the road to getting two of their players all the way to the Gay Games is rough and not yet guaranteed.
Angels Volley has been approached by companies and vice versa but never with full sponsorship intentions.
The team has launched an online fundraising campaign to pay for the players’ trip to Paris. For now, the Municipal Sports Secretary has made the São Paulo Olympic Center available for their training sessions.
‘We are planting a seed’
The idea of participating in the Gay Games — which will take place from Aug. 4-12 — came from the French Consulate’s search for LGBTIQ-inclusive sports teams. Some of the country’s most prominent Olympic and professional volleyball players are among those who have backed Angels Volley.
According to Willy Montmann, the team’s creator and captain, there is still a difference between the female and male professional volleyball players when it comes to backing an LGBTIQ volleyball team.
A number of female volleyball players from professional teams in Brazil are open about their sexuality and same-sex relationships, while there is still a gray area among players from male professional teams as to how much they are willing to talk about their lives or show their support of the LGBTIQ community without fending off questions about whether they too are gay. And it is this fact that makes Angels Volley about much more than only getting to this year’s Gay Games.
One of the team’s principles is also based on the importance of making visible to younger generations that they exist and can be well represented and successful in sports. Many of the Angels Volley players went all the way to making to professional level; but also many of them backed out of it for not enduring locker room harassment, group exclusion and other kinds of discriminatory behavior.
“We are planting a seed,” Montmann told the Washington Blade. “We receive messages from many young players, boys of 12-, 15-years-old saying they want to be just like us. Thanks for existing. We show your page at our team trainings. That is so gratifying.”
Angels Volley has also received support from other volleyball teams that are planning to compete in the Gay Games.
The U.K. team is in touch with the players from Brazil and is also using social media to promote Angels Volley’s search for a sponsorship that could get all of their players to Paris.
Angels Volley was named the official team of São Paulo Pride Parade, but they also dismiss the title of “The Brazilian Gay Team.”
The players are bringing people together for the creation of other gay teams interested in being representative of the community. They are holding the first Angels Volley Cup, a tournament focused on diversity and inclusion that has already around 15 teams from all over Brazil interested in participating.
The tournament will take place in Santo André, a city just outside of São Paulo, on Aug. 4-5.