LGBTQ soccer players seek assists from the community
By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly
Belgium brings to mind world-renowned beer, chocolate that melts in your mouth, and warm delicious waffles. But for Portland’s NetRippers Football Club, it’s all about the World Outgames in Antwerp.
That’s right, Portland’s only soccer club for LGBTQ players and friends is headed to Belgium and hoping the community will help them get there. The NRFC was started in 2006 by a small group of Seattleites and Portlander Kyle O’Connel. Their mission: to attract players of all skill levels, encourage team building, expand a sense of community, and promote health and wellness through recreational and competitive soccer.
“The wonderful thing about the club is the diversity,” says longtime soccer player and NRFC member Lisa Wong. “We probably hit all the diversity marks better than any organization out there. From different races, orientations of all definitions, ages, sex, backgrounds, relationship status’, religions, etc. We learn so much from each other and grow as a group and individually in soccer skills and life. We come out for the soccer but receive so much more.”
Currently, there are more than 100 NetRippers members in 12 teams: 8 indoor teams (women’s, men’s, and coed), 3 outdoor teams, and one futsol (a mostly-indoor soccer variant) team. The slight majority of the players are men, but the club has seen a growth in women’s numbers, especially in the past two years.
Club members compete in weekly games during the regular season, and in three major soccer tournaments each summer: Rain City Soccer in Seattle, Out For Kicks in Vancouver B.C., and the NetRippers Tournament in Portland.
“I will say, our tournament is always the best and most well attended,” says NRFC chair Sammy Rodriguez with a wink. “Some of the best moments I have [with] the NetRippers happen during our annual friendly summer soccer tournament. LGBT players from all over the Pacific Northwest come to our city to play five hours of soccer and then we celebrate like nobody’s business.”
From Portland to Seattle to Vancouver BC and now Belgium for the World Outgames.
“This will be the first time the NetRippers participate in a large, international soccer tournament, so we hope to make our city proud,” Rodriguez says.
The World Outgames is an international sporting event organized by the LGBTQ community but open to everyone. The object is to increase awareness of the need for acceptance and equality for LGBTQ people. Athletes and artists come from all over the world, including from countries where homosexuality remains illegal and hidden.
The NRFC is taking about 20 players to field two teams: a men’s 11 v. 11 team and a women’s 7 v. 7 team. Both squads are in the highest divisions and will be striving to bring home the crown, make their community proud, and put Portland on the map for having the best gay athletes in the world.
But before they can catch that international flight to gay soccer stardom, they need the community’s support — and that means money. They’re not paid professional soccer players – yet – and international flights are not cheap. The club will be hosting weekly fundraising from now until they leave at the end of July. To learn more, check out their Facebook fundraising page or go to the NetRippers website.
Shaley Howard is a sports writer for PQ Monthly as well as an athlete, sports enthusiast, and organizer of the annual HRC Women’s 3×3 Basketball Tournament. She is also is the owner and operator of Scratch N’ Sniff Pet Care, which she considers the best job in the world. Shaley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.