The Football v Homophobia tournament featured LGBT+ fan groups and teams from across London, with our own group Proud and Palace joined by Gay Gooners (Arsenal), Proud Lilywhites (Spurs), RainbOs (Leyton Orient), Rainbow Rangers (QPR), Pride of Irons (West Ham), Left Footers FC, and a team from the Palace for Life Foundation.
Having been cruelly knocked out on goal difference at the group stage (despite winning two of three games) at the last Football for All tournament hosted by Leyton Orient, Proud and Palace were determined to go further on home turf, as the teams came together in the Academy dome.
We started well, fittingly finishing top of Group A after winning all three games. Following victory in a tough semi-final against Left Footers FC, the stage was set for an all-Palace final, as we were pitted against the Palace for Life Foundation team. Palace for Life’s team included Senior Fundraising Coordinator, Bobby Webbe, Targeted Intervention Manager Rash McDonald, Education, Training and Employability Coordinator Tom Richardson and Targeted Intervention Youth Worker Kaine Senkumba.
With both sets of players determined to win under the dome, the final was fiercely contested, with Proud and Palace’s Luke Fuller bagging the winner in a 2-1 victory.
We at Proud and Palace were considering offering the trophy to the club to place on display alongside the Zenith Data Systems Cup, but suspect it might take pride of place in the Fuller household instead!
The win was the perfect end to a fantastic day of football.
Proud and Palace member Ian Challand said: “Palace has always felt like a club built on a strong sense of community, and for them to support Proud and Palace, Football v Homophobia and help to bring together many LGBT+ supporters groups from across London was a reminder of how your local football club can make a difference.
“As a member of Proud and Palace it was lovely to feel like a valued part of the wider Palace community. It was also lovely to see a Palace team hold on for a victory after going ahead late on in a final…!”
Jennifer Frewen, a new member of Palace’s LGBT+ fan group, added: “The Proud and Palace family welcomed me with open arms for the FvH tournament. What a joy to be hosted at the fantastic Academy too! I recently became an instant Palace fan when I encountered such a strong and welcoming community supporting the Eagles.”
However, Frewen strongly believes that tournaments like Sunday’s are still needed. She continued: “Hearing a homophobic slur recently, it reminded me that the work that Football v Homophobia and Proud and Palace are doing through events like this is essential in increasing understanding and appreciation across the whole football fanbase.
“I loved the passion displayed on the field and from the sidelines yesterday from both Proud and Palace family and allies – and coming away with the trophy for Palace was the icing on the cake!”
Indeed, there was no shortage of family connections, and allies, across the Proud and Palace team. Katey Murray, who works as a steward at Selhurst Park, was joined on pitch by her nephew Oliver, cheered on loudly from the sidelines by her sister Nikki – while her Dad, Chris, was on duty as official photographer on the day.
Katey commented: “I’m so proud to play alongside every member of the Proud and Palace family – and love my nephew playing with us!”
Meanwhile, team captain, Proud and Palace founder and Palace for Life Trustee, Stephanie Fuller lined up alongside her wife Karen (aka Kary De Bruyne) and son Luke. Luke, who scored six goals during the tournament – including the winner in the final – said: “This was my second time participating in a Football v Homophobia tournament, and I was filled with excitement after how well the first one went.
“There was added excitement with it being at the new Academy, which didn’t disappoint! The standard of football had increased since last time from the red and blue Eagles, which was clear for all to see, but what also was clear to see is how many people gathered to support what was the most important message of the day: kicking homophobia out of football.
“No matter your background or sexuality, there is no place for it in football. The tournament was played in good spirits and was played with the right attitude. The day was topped off by winning it all. Everyone played their part on the pitch winning the tournament, and off the pitch supporting Football v Homophobia.”
With all teams agreeing that the tournament was a great success, and some fired up to knock the Eagles off their perch next time, it is likely only to be a matter of time before a repeat of the tournament – with rumours circulating of a trip to new hosts north of the river…!
Overall, it was a fantastic day, with all participating teams commenting on the quality of the facilities and what an outstanding effort the club had made to host it.