The first LGTBI football team to compete in the regional category in Spain: “If they insult us, we will stop the game”

Although in this case he has a first and last name, his story is perhaps the silenced story of many others. It has been 15 years since José María River, then a 16-year-old teenager, decided to tell some of his teammates at Motril Club de Fútbol that he was bisexual. “I gathered a few of them, the ones I trusted the most, and told them, I needed to. And at first, they said everything was fine, but in training I started to notice how they were avoiding me and feeling the comments, the accusing looks, the tension…”, he recalls.

“And I stopped feeling comfortable. Football was one of my passions, and I started to abhor it. I even felt clumsy, it seemed as if I had lost the ability to play. And I got away from it. I was not happy where I was rejected, I felt deprived of my passion, of my day-to-day life”.

Three lustrums later, at the age of 31, this Motril native is “taking out a thorn” and has found a way to enjoy football again. And with his idea, he has made another group of teammates able to do so as well. Because River is, in addition to a player, the creator and president of Rinos FC, the first openly declared LGTBI football team in Granada and which, in addition, if nothing goes wrong, will be a pioneer in Spain next season by federating and competing from next season in the Andalusian Third Division.

It all started in 2020, during the lockdown due to the covid pandemic. Then he proposed to create an LGTBI team “open and free”, “a crazy idea that I didn’t see as viable” that started with just five people and, “by word of mouth” and an Instagram account, began to grow and attract the attention of many more.

Currently, it has more than twenty players “of all orientations”, from homosexuals, bisexuals, trans to also heterosexuals. A group of friends who train weekly and have played isolated tournaments in recent times, but who will go further in importance from next year.

Competing federated, “a necessary step”

The idea has “matured in these four years” so much that they have decided to take the next step, and they are already well advanced in their negotiations with Arenas de Armilla, a club with which they have reached a “subsidiary agreement” to be absorbed into its structure and constituted as a sports association. This will provide them with facilities and make it easier to register to start competing this year from the first regional level, the lowest, the Andalusian Third Division.

“Federating ourselves was the first idea I had because we see it as a necessary step to break down all the barriers that, although things have improved, continue to exist in the competition. And it is necessary that we are there for things to change, if not everything will remain the same,” explains River.

Although there are other associations at national level that in addition to football encompass other sports such as athletics, paddle tennis, or volleyball, there is no precedent in Spain of a declared LGTBI team federated and in competition.

“One of our principles as a club, especially for those young people who may feel like I did at the time, is to be a reference point. For them and also for the not so young, to raise awareness in that sector of society that is a bit more old-fashioned, and that in football it has a place,” says River, who is delighted with the good reception of the club.

“We will surely have some problems”

“We are getting very positive responses from all sectors. From the institutions, the Granada Federation, the Federation of referees… everyone supports us and wants to protect us. Although we have had insults on social media, almost everything has been positive and, in a way, surprising”.

Raising awareness while enjoying football is the objective, which will start from the depths of Andalusian football. “In this category (Andalusian Third Division) we will play against small towns, of 5,000 inhabitants, 10,000, 15,000… And surely there we may have some problems, but that’s what we are here for, to overcome them,” says River, who warns.

“If we have to stop a game because there are homophobic insults, we will stop it. Someone has to be the first, and if it happens we will do it with satisfaction”.

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