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Africa's first gay rugby club making great strides

Africa's first gay rugby club making great strides

South Africa

“Queen”, “fairy” and “pansy” are the slugs the Jozi Cats, Africa’s first gay rugby club to play competitions, uses in its provocative advertising campaign to play on stereotypes of homosexuals.

For this campaign, “we used the popular anti-gay slurs and particularly offensive to homosexuals,” said Nathi Khoza, one of the club members.

In a country where rugby is one of the most popular sports, it is about “challenging the stereotypes of players and clichés about gays, playing on the contrast and ridicule of some of these myths,” he adds.

Robert Barnard, 24, played rugby in high school and college.

“I never had a problem with my teammates” he said. “But in one way or another, it’s known that I was gay. And other teams had malicious comments or players would just jostled me even when I did not have the ball,” recalled Barnard.

“I am much more comfortable. This is not disparaging. The guys have created a platform where we gays, we play rugby without being judged. It’s great” .

Although it boasts of being the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation when it introduced its new Constitution in 1996, homosexuality in South Africa’s sporting world continues to arouse controversy.

The team says their campaign has been positively received.

The drive also aims to recruit new players to participate in rugby tournaments and traditional touch rugby.

Launched in 2015 with a few players, Jozi Cats now has a good thirty rugby players, all amateurs, and at various levels.

The next challenge for the team is to recruit more black players in a country where rugby is still the sport for the white minority.

“Homosexuality is stigmatized in black culture,” said Nathi. “In Western culture, people have become more open … while in black culture, gays are denied and some see homosexuality as a curse.”

AFP