From Johannesburg, lesbian footballers chosen to play, choosing to live

Editor’s note

To break the FIFA lockdown on a football culture of such vitality that a World Cup can only diminish it, we offer alternative narratives compiled during a trip to South Africa in June–July 2009. This is the first installment from life in the FIFA-free zones.

Within these articles and other segments, we feature tales of football in life and language, interviews, and literary remains. We do not pretend to cover the 32 participating countries, their players or prospects. What we will not say about North Korea would add no more to what has not been said already.

By the end, we hope to leave South Africa a keepsake—the least we can do, now that $19.7 million for World Cup arts initiatives has disappeared.

The trip to South Africa was sponsored by the country’s International Marketing Council.

My kind of God lives in the soccer field.

She hits the ferocious shots or sublime free kicks, performs the acrobatic save

She is the best lover anyone can ask for

My god doesn’t subscribe to any political party or gender

she comes off the soccer boots of Marta

she is a pele

—Tapuwa Moore, 2010

Rustenburg, South Africa | How does one write a love letter to a football team? For a sports journalist the idea sounds improper—perhaps criminal—but it’s what I wish to do for Chosen Few Lesbian Soccer Club of Johannesburg.

A year ago the team allowed me, a male interloper from an alternative hemisphere, to accompany them to a friendly match in Rustenburg, North West province, a former Boer settlement in what used to be called the Transvaal.

South Africa ... 

Life in the FIFA-free zone Chosen Few played a provincial power and lost badly, all the goals permitted in the second half after injuries and fatigue reduced them to eight field players. They lit cigarettes at the end and partook of the team’s unique communion rituals. Resampled songs by Michael Jackson, who had died a few days before, pulsed from van speakers. Players passed pre-made cheese sandwiches along with cups of Like Father, Like Son red wine. One said the sweet tonic should be rebranded Like Father, Like Daughter.

The coach, Tapuwa Moore, cursed the club’s fitness and lack of cohesion—a vice-captain led the side due to a demoted captain’s "unruly behavior." But Moore seemed resigned to their fate.

"A 6–1 drubbing," she says calmly on the touchline shortly after an uncontested 89th-minute breakaway rips the back of the Chosen Few net. "That’s nice."

But these are not the most important facts from the day. The most important thing to know about Chosen Few is that they try to live an honest life in dishonest times. They try to be straightforward about verbal and physical abuse they have suffered and about lives they live inside.

They try to live openly in a world of disguises. That’s why there are few of them.

Communication is a core concept for the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, housed at Constitution Hill, the former apartheid-era women’s prison in Johannesburg. From a place of confinement women learn how to become advocates for themselves and others. FEW was founded in 2002 to counter a culture of hate plaguing black lesbians and bisexual and transgender women. The football team came later as a means to attract women players who might not have chosen human-rights work as a first occupation. For serving as court monitors at hate-crimes trials and raising their own awareness of the country’s anti-gay prejudice, players can enjoy football without keeping secrets. Some participated at demonstrations related to the Eudy Simelane trial in 2009 (see 30 Aug 09).

Page 1 of 5 | Next page