The league that broke the stereotype: football is for men.
A story painted in colors…
At 19 years old, Edgar Cortés imagined the worst. It was not the first time that a bad omen had captured him, but this time, he thought that the third time was the charm.
I thought I was HIV positive, but I wasn’t. In this way, after a life of alcohol, drugs, and sex, he sought to get closer to the passion of soccer. It was not an easy thing. He sought to be part of an LGBT+ sports club, but quickly realized that they did not exist in Mexico.
There was no rainbow court in the country.
Today, at 46 years old, Edgar Cortés Merchand is the general director and co-founder of Ligay MX, the first LGBT tournament in Mexico.
Time has not passed in vain:
During the 1980s and 1990s, gay people who wanted to join a sports club had to fake a “politically correct” life. The LGBT+ community, in addition to living in hiding, carried the stigma of being drug addicts and far from a “healthy life”.
Edgar Cortés tells what was lived at that time:
A sector of the community itself did not understand that sport has no gender. Whether due to bad experiences or culture, they did not exercise and they also did not break that prejudice that says that soccer is for men.
To break with it, several ideas went through his head: first, to write a book to recount his experiences so that other homosexuals would not go through the “hell” that he lived through; Later, he thought of soccer as a way to break the stereotypes that the LGBT+ community had and to distance young people from the dangers of HIV.
That’s where it all started…
“Are you gay and would you like to play soccer making lots of friends?”, read the SER GAY website in April 2003. In less than 24 hours, several members of the LGBT+ community had taken an interest.
Of the 12 participants who attended the first date, none knew how to play soccer, but all were looking for something in common: “Public spaces where they can make friends and share an identity without fear of being attacked or abused,” remembers Edgar Cortés.
After a first experience and after months of preparation, in November 2003 the first edition of the Ligay was held in Mexico City. Fuckers, Tu Mama, Fuerza G, Fashion Team and El Clan made up the first edition of the championship, where the Tu Mama team took the title after beating Fashion Team in the Final, held in the Second Section of Bosque de Chapultepec.
Ligay MX was the first movement to summon players of sexual diversity in Mexico. When the movement began, many players heeded the invitation and joined a space where they were not judged based on their sexual preference.
From the first duel, a huge rainbow flag was seen that “identifies us as a gay soccer community, proud to share our sexual orientation,” says Merchand.
Like every story, this one also had its stones along the way.
Outside the LGBT+ community, they were criticized for seeing themselves as “pure jackals” playing. “In the beginning, the public was interested in us because of the curiosity of knowing that being gay we were on a par with straight teams,” recalls Cortés Merchand.
“More than rejection, we found people’s curiosity and questions about what the flag and our movement mean,” he adds.
As for the authorities, it was different, they found “governments of all colors” that wanted to take away their spaces, and demerit or lessen their expressions, they told them:
Don’t kiss in public, don’t hug.
They received more discrimination from the authorities than from the general population. However, the passion for soccer spread.
After the success of the first edition, CDMX’s Deportivo Cuauhtémoc opened its doors as an inclusive sports club and promoter of the LGBT sports movement, not only in soccer but also in volleyball, basketball, and swimming tournaments, but on a smaller scale than the Liga y MX.
The bitter experiences did not end.
In 2015, during the reopening of Deportivo Cuauhtémoc, home of the movement since 2003, the participants of the league were denied entry, until they sneaked in and placed, as they usually do, their rainbow flag and canvas alluding to the movement.
But, Edgar Cortés accuses, that in less than two minutes, the two objects were removed and hidden by the organizers of the event, the Cuauhtémoc delegation from Mexico City headed, at that time, by Ricardo Monreal of the Morena political party.
It has been difficult to deal with those who give electoral use to the LGBTTTI sports cause.
A year later the problems continued. The league had to file a complaint with COPRED based on the Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination of the Federal District, because Deportivo Cuauhtémoc “placed garbage trucks on the pitches” they occupied and could not carry out their activities.
The first 12 years of the movement were centered in Mexico City, with few teams and small local tournaments. However, today there is rainbow soccer in CDMX, the State of Mexico, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Veracruz, Morelos, Puebla, Querétaro, and Colima.
The championship is not national, it is carried out by local tournaments, however, the message it promotes is international.
The movement has been so successful that teams such as Halcones, Zorros LGBT, Azkatl and Didesex have participated internationally in the Sin City Classic championship in Las Vegas, the largest LGBTQ sporting event in the world with more than 8 thousand athletes.
In addition, Zorros LGBT, Azkatl and Didesex represented Mexico at the 2018 Paris Gay Games (“Gay Olympic Games”).
Halcones was the first totally gay team in Mexico, its goal was to create a “space of inclusion, respect, healthy coexistence through sports.”
The team from the capital was the first LGBT+ Mexican team to play an international championship, when they played the 2016 edition of the Sin City Classic in Las Vegas, finishing in third place.
Foxes LGBT is a representative group from Mexico City, it participated internationally in the Sin City Classic in Las Vegas in 2017 and in the Gay Games in Paris in 2018.
Azkatl won the Ligay CDMX 2019 and played the Sin City Classic Tournament in Las Vegas in 2018 and the Gay Games in Paris in 2018.
Didesex was runner-up in the LIGAY CDMX 2019; In addition, he played the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Sin City Classic in Las Vegas and at the Gay Games in Paris 2018.
The next tournament will be played on Saturday, November 19, and Sunday, November 20 in León, Guanajuato, and the host team will be Leonas FC. Later, another edition will be held in early 2023 in Cancun, Quintana Roo.
In addition, Ligay MX prepares a selection with the best players in the country for the next LGBTTTI international tournament, with an indefinite venue. “We call on companies to support diverse sport. To sponsor a team in the league and express their social solidarity on a permanent basis”, concludes the general director of Ligay MX.