Grassroots LGBT football team give to the community despite homophobic abuse

Monkey chants from the stands aimed towards black players on the pitch is very clearly racism, writes Lucy Roberts.

Jeering at the size of a woman’s chest and telling her to get out of the stadium and back in the kitchen is blatant sexism.

But “calling someone a puff is just something you do, it’s just banter or whatever they call it.”

Those were the words of James Cole, Chairman of Village Manchester FC which is one of the country’s biggest LGBTQ+ inclusive football clubs and it sits in the heart of the city.

Football v Homophobia sign on display at a Premier League match. Credit: Getty Images

His club have just marked the end of Football vs. Homophobia month, a campaign which aims to raise awareness of prejudice and discrimination of gay people within the footballing world.

But just like with any initiative designed to help the masses, it’s only affecting the very top of the game and the desired trickle-down effect just isn’t working.

“If we didn’t tell them I’m not sure that many teams in grassroots football would know that much about Football vs. Homophobia,” the chairman defeatedly explained.

“We do hear homophobic abuse from time to time, but the average Sunday league team don’t notice it, they don’t see it as abuse.

“I don’t want to say it’s performative from the FA because I really do think they want to make a difference but it’s a lot easier to make a different in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford where you’ve got cameras on everything than it is for 30 people round the corner from Old Trafford at Turn Moss on a wet Sunday morning where there’s literally just the referee who already wants to not have his car keyed by someone at the end of the game.”

But Village Manchester FC isn’t the type of club to hold onto their anger and frustrations and they juxtapose the abuse they get by giving back to their community.

They were approached by Football for Foodbanks, an organisation that donates money and food to those who need it most while also kicking a ball about a pitch, to organise a game, which Cole was “more than happy to help out with.”

This match, which was played on Sunday, marked the end of Football vs. Homophobia month for the inclusive team and they managed to fill two and a half cars with donated goods which would eventually make its way to the food poverty charity Humans MCR.