Soccer, know in Europe as ‘association football,’ is the world’s most popular sport. However, in the United States, soccer is played mostly by children, immigrants and minority groups.
But soccer’s relative unpopularity in America has never stopped fans and players alike from forming and nurturing teams devoted to “The Beautiful Game.”
In South Florida, LGBT soccer aficionados have the Florida Storm Soccer Team to call their own. Established 7 years ago by a group of friends, Florida Storm Soccer is a non-profit, gay and lesbian-friendly organization that provides an opportunity to play soccer in a positive and friendly environment.
According to Marcos Oliveira, President of Florida Storm Soccer, the team has over 60 members, including 32 players.
“Our team is a crossover of all paths of life representing straight, bi, gay, Latino, Black, Asian, European, white, old and young,” Oliveira says. “We have players in Division I and Division II levels. Every Sunday the men of the Florida Storm play at the YMCA in Boca Raton, where we hold regular practices and scrimmage to support our team development and enhancement of new skills,” he added.
Florida Storm also plays in domestic and international tournaments sponsored by Atlanta, New York and the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA).
The largest LGBT organization of its kind, IGLFA brings together 80 teams from more than 20 countries and schedules tournaments around the world.
The Florida Storm Soccer joined IGLFA in 2004 and, according to Oliveira, has played in every major tournament since.
The Storm won the gold medal in the 2nd Division at the 2003 Championship in Boston; the gold medal in the 1st Division at the 2004 Championship in San Francisco; and the bronze medal in the 1st Division at the 2005 Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark.
In 2006 the Storm participated in Gay Games VII, held in Chicago.
“Florida Storm Soccer had an amazing experience in Chicago Gay Games 2006,” says Oliveira. “We were able to compete with two teams playing Division I and II. Division II went all the way up to the semi-finals but Division I team did even better.”
He adds: “We played the best games ever in our 7 years of history against Liverpool in the finals. We finished in 2nd place, winning the silver medal, and that is one of the greatest accomplishments we had done so far,” Oliveira notes proudly.
Next on the Florida Storm’s agenda are Gay Games VIII, to be held in Cologne (Köln) Germany from July 31 to August 7.
“We are finalizing our roster and playing hard every week to get in shape to be able to compete against the best gay teams from all over the world,” says Oliveira, adding that he is very excited to be able to represent the city, state and country at the Gay Games.
To raise the funds needed to take the Storm to the Games, the team is holding multiple events, including a pool party at the Villa Venice guest house in Fort Lauderdale. But going to the Games is not cheap; and Oliveira invites SFGN readers to consider donating through our Team Web page and help raise funds to complete the team registration, support the purchase of team uniforms and warm up to the match representing Florida.
“Soccer is a genuine sport with great acceptance worldwide,” Oliveira says. “We take it seriously, have fun and throughout the years built a great reputation with great accomplishments in domestic and international tournaments.
And, he adds, “No matter your sexual orientation, you will find a unique environment to be yourself and expand your mind and your circle of friends.”
For more about Florida Storm Soccer, visit www.floridastormsoccer.com.
Jesse Monteagudo is a regular contributor to SFGN.