The sound of the thud of the ball, the calling and shouting, the rustling of the net. We’ve all heard these noises when we’re playing down our local 5-a-side pitches.
But not all of us would have heard the fascinating story of LGTBQ+ Sunday league football team, Birmingham Blaze Football Club.
Established in 2005, the club didn’t always play competitively during their early days and had to transition into Sunday league football as Club Chairperson Liam Rivers explains:
“For a few reasons we went to a Sunday league. We were quite apprehensive with doing it because we’d only been playing against other LGBT teams.
“The problem with that was they’re all over the country so you might be playing Bristol one week and then your cup competition might take you to Glasgow or Edinburgh.
“So we thought, we’ll take the plunge, join a proper Sunday league as there’s more football there and we never looked back really.”
That decision formed the foundations of the club – be inclusive while staying competitive.
And competitive they have been. In fact, the club won their league during the 2018/19 season with an impressive record of 19 wins in 22 outings and also came runners up in the Cup.
“Obviously we want to win football matches. We play in quite a competitive league and obviously we want to win on Sunday, but also, we want to offer football for anyone who wants to play whether they be straight, gay, whatever. It doesn’t really matter.” Said Liam.
Tom Hogan, player and secretary for Blaze, is one of many who has benefitted from the formation of Blaze and what they stand for:
“I saw the group advertised online probably ten or twelve years ago. Since then I’ve been involved off-and-on and then more recently took more involvement becoming secretary.
“When I first joined it was really good because it gave me the confidence about playing football again.
“At the time the club wasn’t playing weekly competitive football.
“So, I left the club to go and play for a an eleven-a-side team playing every week so it’s really good that Blaze gave me that confidence to do that.
“And then when Blaze started to play themselves every week I thought I’d come back and try and make a difference there.”
Unfortunately, the club’s journey hasn’t always been as bright as the rainbow coloured LGBT patch that Blaze proudly wear on the sleeves of their kit.
“We’ve had a couple of incidents of homophobia which we’ve reported to the FA. I don’t mind the odd bit of banter like at a corner but when it becomes abusive obviously we’ve reported that.” Liam explained.
“The fact that we’ve got a LGBT badge on our shirt, it’s something different but it’s not like we have a problem with it every week or people even notice every week. Sometimes they do and there’s some positives. We have some negatives as well.”
Regardless of some of the negativity, the positivity shines through the clouds and it won’t stop them on their journey of ‘football for all’.
“I think that’s one of the big selling points of Birmingham Blaze is that we’re really inclusive of everyone no matter what their skill set, their age, their sexuality is.” Tom said.
Blaze by name, trail blazers by nature.