On the first day of this month, Bengaluru FC uploaded a post on social media showing the sketch of a searchlight casting rainbow colors over their stadium, the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. Tagged with #LoveKnowsNoGender, its caption read, “This June, remember that your love is yours to color in.”
The tweet did not go viral and in a week since it appeared, it has accumulated only around 600 likes, but it helped Bengaluru FC stand out as a rare sports team in India to support and spread awareness about a cause that greatly measure has been considered taboo.
This June, remember that your love is yours to color. 🏳️🌈
– Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) June 1, 2021
Mandar Tamhane, CEO of the team that has won two I-League titles and one Indian Super League, explains the reason for this LGBTQ Pride Month initiative.
“As a club, we wanted to be more and more inclusive. When the Supreme Court issued the order (in September 2018, to decriminalize section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, thus allowing same-sex relationships), we thought it was time to talk about it. We have been supporting this cause for the past three years. ”
India and Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has in the past been part of a team, though not in India, that has wholeheartedly embraced the LGBTQ community. The 29-year-old had first experienced it when he played for Stabæk, the top Norwegian club.
“Every year in Stabæk, we used to meet and greet people from the LGBTQ community in our area,” he says.
“We used to go to the court on game day holding hands with people in the community, sending a message saying that we support and welcome them, and we want to be a part of this community to make sure everyone is happy and coexisting “.
However, in the Indian club, when the decision was made to take a stance that had never been taken by a sports team before, there was an initiation process that the players had to go through.
“Most of us (players) are not informed on the subject. The club helps educate us and makes sure that we learn from what we are going to be a part of, ”explains Sandhu.
“That is why when you are part of something, you cannot be there halfway and attend press conferences or interviews if you do not know the subject.”
Reaching wasn’t just about posting sketches on social media. Before a match against ATK, the team, including support staff, from the head coach to the kit manager, entered the stadium from the team bus wearing suits that had a rainbow flag tag. Later, at a home game, the game day program had an entry written by a gay club fan talking about his experience coming out of the closet.
They were subtle but conspicuous and consistent displays of support.
It’s a start, but Sandhu says there is still a long way to go before the issue is discussed openly.
“Of course, there is a lot of stigma attached to this. One of the ways to approach this is to create a lot of awareness, creating zones without prejudice, ”he says.
“The ruling was passed almost three years ago. We are still a long way from understanding many things about this. It is very important to respect that each individual is different. As long as we can live together, with happiness and peace, it will be great. We are all different, what they feel and see is different, and we must respect it as a community ”.
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