The final score was lopsided, 8 to 1, but what the Dulwich Hamlet FC Supporters Team did in playing TRUK United FC on Friday was historic: This was the first time in Europe that an all-cisgender men’s soccer team competed against a team of transgender men and trans-masculine players.
And as Pink News reported, it happened on the International Transgender Day of Visibility in London.
“Many of the team had never met before. Some of them hadn’t played football since school, others were semi-pro,” said Harry Nicholas, author of “A Trans Man Walks into a Gay Bar“, who played center back in Friday’s match.
Another player was a famous face in U.K. television: Ash Palmisciano — the first ever transgender actor to appear on the show “Emmerdale” — drove down from Leeds to play. Others drove to London all the way from Scotland, according to Nicholas.
“There was such a range of talent, experiences and nationalities on the pitch, but the one thing that united us all was that we thought there was no place for us in football as trans men, and this event changed that,” he said, and explained why the match was so vital for trans representation in sports:
“I hope that trans kids see this and know there is a place for them in sport. That it is possible,” said Nicholas.
A crowd of more than 500 fans was in attendance at Champions Field, and when TRUK United scored a goal, there was a huge eruption of cheers, a moment Nicholas tweeted was “possibly the most emotional moment of my life.”
“We ran towards each other and hugged. Our manager Lucy and the whole squad joined us on the pitch. I’ve never felt a sense of community and joy quite like it before — we were playing a sport we love and owning it,” he told Pink News.
LGBTQ advocate and journalist Nick Heath called that goal “the greatest free kick goal I’ve ever seen live.”
“The crowd seemed to get a lot out of it, too,” said Nicholas. “For many of the people in attendance — football crowds are a challenge. There can be a lot of homophobia and transphobia. For many it was their first time watching a match. There were amazing chants and it was such a high-spirited event. It was a mix of LGBTQ+ people, and allies, coming together to celebrate this historic evening, and show that everyone has a place in sport.”
The match was played on the same day that UK Athletics confirmed its ban on trans women in women’s sports, and Nicholas said that made the match especially vital.
“The score didn’t matter at the beginning and it didn’t matter at the end. This was not about winning or proving ourselves against a cis team. The real win was always that we walked out onto the pitch, played, we’re visible and we’ve reclaimed our place in football.”