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Germany's first gay rugby team scrums down

The Local · 22 Mar 2013, 08:17

Published: 22 Mar 2013 08:17 GMT+01:00

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In freezing temperatures on a snow-covered public football pitch adapted for rugby the Bruisers lost 45-22 to Dublin's Emerald Warriors on the site of the historic Tempelhof airport.

A flurry of tries by the Warriors, Ireland's first gay rugby team which was founded 10 years ago, in the final 15 minutes may have flattered the guests, but the frozen conditions favoured the hosts.

"The Warriors had never played on snow, while our four previous training sessions had been in blizzards, so we're well used to it," English-born forward Adam Wide, who helped found the Bruisers in April 2012, told AFP.

Click for a gallery of the Bruisers in action

The Bruisers had also carefully planned their pre-match tactics. "We were very good hosts and took them around Berlin the night before with the aim of getting them very drunk, one of the Warriors stayed out all night, but still managed to play," added Wide with a smile.

"The Warriors are very experienced and the difference told late in the game, but that's what happens when a team which has been playing for 10 years takes on one which has been training together for six months."

Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in football-mad Germany, with around 13,000 active players, including 2,000 women, last year, but the sport is relatively unknown in Germany's capital outside the ex-pat community.

The world's first gay rugby team, London's Kings Cross Steelers, was founded in 1995 and there are gay rugby teams scattered across North America, Australia and Europe.

The Bruisers have already attracted plenty of support from Berlin's gay community with 500 members and 35 active players training three times a week. The Bruisers can also claim a world record, having completed 237 passes in three minutes, and the first run of their nude calendar sold out - all in their first year as a registered club.

"It all came about down the pub when a few of us asked the question 'why isn't there a gay rugby team here?' and decided to do something about it," said Wide.

With their first match out of the way, the Bruisers next goal is to find a permanent ground to train at to prepare for the Union Cup, the biennial tournament for gay European teams, hosted this May in Bristol, England.

A gay team with a straight coach

Playing against straight teams in a league is the club's ultimate aim. While the vast majority of the Bruisers team is gay, their American coach Michael Felts, who played college rugby in North Carolina, is straight.

"I've had a few surprised looks when I tell people I coach a gay team, but all the comments I have heard have been positive," said the 24-year-old, who normally plays on the wing, but played at outside half against the Warriors.

"Occasionally, you hear the odd colourful conversation in training and generally the guys are slightly less aggressive than straight players. "I was pleasantly surprised by how much a few of them performed in the game, they threw themselves into the rucks and mauls. It was awesome."

With 15 nationalities represented amongst the Bruisers and a wide range of ages, English is the main language during training.

Having sought out a team to coach after arriving in Berlin last year, Felts took his first Bruisers training session last October on a spare patch of ground in Tiergarten, the city centre park near Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate.

"The first few training sessions, I just watched to see where we could start from and it was pretty much the bottom," said Felts, who is also head coach of another Berlin rugby team.

Story continues below…

"Some had never played the game before, but the benefit of that is they have no bad habits."

Despite Berlin's sub-zeros temperatures and regular bouts of heavy snow during winter, the Bruisers train in all weathers. "We've trained when it's been minus eight or nine, I told the guys I'd be there and a bunch of them showed up even when it was really cold," said Felts.

"We couldn't put in any contact, a few of them were sliding around on the ice, but having a great time."

Poignantly, the Bruisers train in Tiergarten just a few metres from the memorial to homosexuals persecuted and murdered under Nazi rule from 1933-45.

"I feel that's true Berlin fashion, the Germans don't shy away from their World War II past, they don't hide anything and they are trying to make amends. It's now about moving forwards," said Felts.


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Your comments about this article

16:10 March 22, 2013 by reallybigdog
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:29 March 22, 2013 by raandy
reallybig dog, :-) your comment is still posted,

The Gay team, talk nice about them be PC, go watch the game,, and you will fit right in with the Liberal Tree Huggers.
17:50 March 22, 2013 by reallybigdog
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
19:58 March 22, 2013 by Englishted
@ reallybigdog

By rest of the world ,you don't include ,Australasia, Africa ,North and South America , most parts of Europe ,Asia.

There are 108 clubs and 11,656 players in German alone .

But you are right the North and South Pole don't have any teams but it really cold in the "rest of the World"
21:16 March 22, 2013 by Bulldawg82
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
21:58 March 22, 2013 by reallybigdog
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
23:02 March 22, 2013 by lordkorner
Give me a game of rugby gay or straight any day over that nancy pancy sport called Football in the US.....
00:14 March 23, 2013 by lazarus
I am happy to see that a country is not so homophobic as to bring their insecurities to a game field.

Here in America, the self righteous "puritans" condem Homosexaulity while at the same time are molesting young boys in the corner.

As to American football being "Nancy", try it yourself against athletes and find out how soft it is. We have Rugby here in America as well as most other sports. The is merit in all of them.

00:25 March 23, 2013 by zeddriver
Why does there even need to be "gay" anything. Can you imagine the uproar in the media if there was an announcement that there was to be a heterosexual only Club.

I truly don't care if a person is or is not gay. It's none of my dammed business. And to be honest. I don't want to hear about it either. What happens behind closed doors should stay there.
08:48 March 23, 2013 by hankeat
It is always strange to read people write they truly don't care about something, and yet they do read the articles about that thing and write comment about it.
09:51 March 23, 2013 by Englishted
I just find it strange to complain about segregation and the self impose it ,why?
17:55 March 23, 2013 by LiberalGuy
"To all our US viewers. Rugby is similar to what you would call football. Except played by men"

Jeremy Clarkson

The truest thing the man has ever said
10:48 March 24, 2013 by raandy
reallybigdog.. Didn't you read where rugby is a real mans sport compared to Us football?. Did you know that the average weight of a tackle is 300+ lbs about 140 kilos and they hit you with over 1600 ft lbs of bone crushing impact and can run a 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds? I would like to see the real men step out on the grid iron with no protection, I would wager my savings that they end up in the morgue or at the least in the hospital.
11:16 March 24, 2013 by adamwide
It's really weird seeing the reaction to the Gay Rugby Team article. Especially all the unwarranted assumptions that the gay team are 1) not including heterosexuals, and 2) formed the team for sexual purposes .... neither of which are true.

I am a founder member of the team and a player/manager. We started the team precisely because 'straight' teams DON'T like having gay players, not the other way round. We have straight players in the team who prefer playing with us rather than the straight teams because they are fed up with the macho B.S. in the straight teams. They find us more human, and less worried about our image.

We are an emergent rugby team - who happens to be gay. The "gay" part isn't the crux of the story ... the crux is that we have been training on bits of grass all over Berlin (we don't have a pitch to call 'home'), we have found an amazing straight coach whom we pay .... and after just a few months of having formed (only five of the team had EVER touched a rugby ball before) yet in our first ever match we managed to play "joined up" rugby and come of the pitch with heads held high !

It's not about sexuality ... it's about playing throughout the winter on snow in freezing temperatures and a group of men pulling together to achieve something of which we can be proud. Wd also are developing an "outreach" programme to go to schools and workshop "bullying" and how to deal with it. We are hardly "liberal tree huggers" - but we do hope we can make a difference.
11:43 March 24, 2013 by raandy
adamwide I see your point and it is good to read this by a person with hands on experience, however it is the Local that put the sexuality into this not the posters, the title

""Germany's first gay rugby team scrums down"""

" New Rugby Team, trying to make a difference" and then bring in the other facts and information would serve your cause better, and stress your goals as opposed to your sexuality.
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