Creating Toronto’s first gay football team sounded like a kind of mission impossible to Ken Scott. He’d played other organized, more gay-friendly sports like softball, volleyball and bowling â€” but football had always been his true sporting love.
So two years ago he put the word out as best he could and started to show up every Saturday afternoon at a small patch of grass just east of the Village with cones to mark the field, a couple of footballs to toss around and flags for everybody who wanted to play. Most days, he was lucky to have enough players for four or five a side.
“There was every other gay sport in the city, but I wanted to play football,” said Scott over a beer and nachos at a local pub. “A lot of gay men are discouraged from playing football at a young age, so I thought having a gay-positive league would provide a more nurturing environment for guys to learn the game and try something new.”
The players weren’t very good, most had barely, if ever, played before, turned off by the often-homophobic vibe associated with aggressive and decidedly straight games like football. But every time they stepped onto the field they stayed out until sundown.
After that inaugural season, word spread throughout the gay community. A group of regulars formed an executive committee, calling themselves the Toronto Gay Football League (TGFL) and named Scott commissioner. They made a Facebook page, hosted bar nights and asked their friends to come out and give gay football a chance.
“A couple weeks before the second season started we were wondering if we’d get enough players for even three teams,” says Scott. “But then, all of a sudden, we had an influx. We had so many people come out. I thought, ‘Where did all these people come from?'”
In just one year, the TGFL jumped from a ragtag crew to a bona fide league. They moved to a proper field just off the Danforth and found sponsors to outfit each of the five teams with uniforms. The executive organized skill-building clinics, trained referees and even hosted regular social events.
“We want to provide that kind of community for the players,” says James Scott (no relation), one of the TGFL’s founding members. “Even in a progressive city like Toronto you would have to edit yourself in a straight league. So we try to create a friendly, stress-free environment where we can completely be ourselves.”
This year, the TGFL is looking to expand to eight or nine teams. South of the border, there is the already-established National Gay Football League and Scott and co. plan to send the first-ever Canadian contingent to its signature event, the Gay Bowl. Those close to the TGFL say it will keep growing until everybody who wants to play football can, no matter their sexual orientation. Because, for them, that’s what sport is really about.