All-trans football team set to make history on the pitch: ‘You can create your own spaces’
A football team made up entirely of trans masculine people will take to the pitch for the first time ever in Europe.
Last year on, Trans Day of Visibility, TRUK United FC played a historic game against Dulwich Hamlet Women’s FC with a team comprised entirely of trans women. The 2022 match sparked a conversation around trans inclusion in sport, a trick TRUK is hoping to repeat this year, with the introduction of an all-trans men’s team.
TRUK United FC Men will play their first match on Trans Day of Visibility 2023 (31 March) against supporters of Dulwich Hamlet FC. The TRUK United FC Women team will also play that day, against Dulwich’s women’s team.
Arthur Webber, who will captain the men’s team, has been playing football for as long as he can remember. His mum jokes that his dad ‘made him trans’ by making him watch the 1998 World Cup as a baby.
“I used to play with him in the back garden before I joined a team when I was seven, and I joined the boys’ team at that point because my dad knew the coach and knew that I was going to flatly refuse to play for a girls’ team,” he tells PinkNews ahead of the match.
“I played for the boys’ team up until I moved to secondary school, and in secondary school everything became sex-segregated, so I played for a women’s team then for a couple of years before finding out what trans was.
“Then I was like, ‘Oh s**t, I can’t do this anymore’, and I gave up [football] until I moved to London last year.”
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In 2022, FIFA, football’s governing body, announced it would review trans eligibility policies after other sporting bodies passed rules restricting trans participation in women’s events. This is despite there being only a handful of openly trans players at the top tier of football: Quinn, the first openly trans, non-binary athlete to win an Olympic (gold) medal, and the Japanese player Kumi Yokoyama, a trans man. Both continued to play on women’s teams after coming out.
It came as subject of trans inclusion in sport has been viciously weaponised in recent years with FINA, British Cycling and the English, Welsh and Irish Rugby Football Unions banning trans women from participating fully in sports. Meanwhile, the few trans athletes who’ve been successful in sport have found themselves hounded by the media and politicians.
The exclusion and discrimination that trans people – especially women – continue to face made Arthur “nervous” to start playing football again.
He says things might have been less nerve-wracking had he known just “one other trans man” who played. Now, he’s hopeful that young trans people might see him and his teammates and know that it’s possible to find belonging on the pitch.
Like Arthur, Emmerdale star Ash Palmisciano grew up wanting to play football – he sought out “stereotypical male things”.
Joining TRUK United FC and finally being able to finally play on a football team that loves, supports and affirms his identity is “priceless”, he says, because it’s something he missed growing up.
Young trans people often reach out to Ash for support because they see him on Emmerdale, searching for connection through the representation they see on screen. He hopes that playing on the all-trans masc team will send a “very powerful” message.
“The players will feel a sense of achievement, unity and hopefully support as well,” he says.
“We get criticised so much in society, but [we’re] reclaiming a little space for ourselves and having that happy moment where we’ve changed the environment.
“We’re going to see people thrive. We’re going to see confidence. People are going to walk away that day feeling they’re amazing, that they’re absolutely who they’re supposed to be.”
TRUK United FC’s founder Lucy Clark hopes the match will “lead on to bigger and better things” with more trans masculine people feeling like they can play football.
“I firmly believe that, once we’ve played this match, there’ll be trans men out there thinking, ‘I can play football. I want to play football’,” she says. “I’m hoping this isn’t an on-off. I want this to be something we can do regularly.”
Clark, the UK’s first trans football referee, already knows she’s going to have the “biggest smile on [her] face” and feel like a “proud parent” when she sees the team take to the pitch.
Arthur hopes the match will inspire other trans clubs to open up across the country, maybe even creating a league for trans folk to come together to play football.
“Let’s have a trans-only league,” he says. “You can create your own spaces. I tweeted [about the match] and got so many responses.”
He continues: “There will be other trans guys in your area. You can look at the census data and find out exactly how many trans guys are in your area. At least one of them will like football.
“Don’t let this be the limit of it. Go off. Do your own thing. Create more time, more space to be joyous and have fun.”
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