South African lesbian soccer team makes it to Games
Tue Jul 18, 7:37 PM ET
SUMMARY: Chosen Few, a lesbian soccer team from Johannesburg, arrives safely in Chicago despite visa problems and financial hardships.
African LGBT sports fans rejoiced Tuesday after learning that Chosen Few, a lesbian soccer team from South Africa, arrived safely in Chicago after weathering visa problems and financial hardships en route to the United States.
The final three players on the 19-member team arrived after the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg finally expedited their visas, the South African LGBT Web site Behind the Mask reported Tuesday. They missed the Gay Games opening ceremonies, but arrived in time to play 1-1 in qualifying matches, to be held through Wednesday in Oak Park, Ill. Chosen Few won Monday's opening round against a Wisconsin team, then lost to Team Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The women are sponsored by Forum for the Empowerment of Women, a Johannesburg advocacy group for black lesbians. A Gay Games scholarship program paid their fare; a wealthy Chicago couple, Dick Uyvari and Joe La Pat, anted up many players' $106 visa application fee.
Player Penelope Nkosi, 23, of Gauteng province, told Behind the Mask that because she was unemployed she had to apply three times for a U.S. visa, and that documents from South Africa's minister of sports and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley finally were required to do the trick.
"They did not even bother to read the documentation and letters of support we had" on the first two attempts, Nkosi said. "They kept on asking us how can we afford this trip if we're not working. They did not want us there."
Forum for the Empowerment of Women estimates that nearly 60 percent of all women soccer players in South Africa are lesbian. The group campaigns heavily to improve opportunities in the women's event, which is nowhere near as entrenched in Africa as it is in the United States.
The group also sponsors "The Rose Has Thorns," targeting hate crimes against black lesbians, and was part of Johannesburg's hard-fought bid for the 2010 Gay Games, which will be held in Cologne, Germany.
Uyvari and La Pat, after learning the South Africans' hard-luck story, donated $75,000 to bring more international athletes to the Games.
"The idea of enabling people to have this experience they otherwise would not have is wonderful," Uyvari told the Tribune. Their gift helped enable Games organizers to subsidize 115 athletes from 22 countries, Games organizers said.
Medal rounds in soccer are scheduled for Friday at the University of Illinois-Chicago.