Breaking barriers with Stonewall FC – Craig Rice’s story
By Ola Fisayo
Craig Rice has played football for pretty much all of his life.
It has always been a part of Craig’s life coming from a Tottenham Hotspur house hold and captaining sports team through-out his schooling; and has since gone on to become part of a unique and historic team.
Seven years ago he became part of an incredible sporting foundation that continues to make waves within the game today, Stonewall FC.
Stonewall are one of the founding gay football teams in the UK, the top ranking gay football club in England and the world’s most successful gay football team.
Based in London and playing in the Middlesex County League, Stonewall were founded in the early 1990’s as a football club and foundation for gay players.
Since then they have gone on to win league and cup honours in Middlesex, the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association World Championships, the Gay Games (Gay Olympics), and are the current holders of the European Gay Championships.
Craig revealed his sexuality whilst traveling in Australia but returned to his home village in Devon, and local team finding that his open sexual orientation didn’t affect his footballing life. When he moved to London he was just looking to play, and stumbled upon the club.
One of the aspects that Craig and many others like about Stonewall is how comfortable they feel being part of the club.
“One of the biggest testaments of our team is that when I brought one of my mates along, who happened to be straight, he really enjoyed it and wanted to be part of the team,” He began.
“He saw that we played great football and that we were no different than any other team. I think it says a lot that a straight player is comfortable in a gay team.”
Although there is a lot more acceptance these days, it doesn’t mean that the LGBT community and Stonewall FC don’t come up against some negativity within the sport. Craig said: “In about seven years of playing, I’ve only experienced about three instances.
“When it does happen you do get angry and want to do something, but we always deal with it in the right way, and most of the time the person they were in the wrong.”
The match on 22 February between Fans For Diversity and Stonewall takes place in LGBT History Month, a time where the importance of LGBT inclusion is highlighted across football and society, and Craig believes the game should be welcoming to all.
“I think celebrating how diverse society has become is always a good thing, even though there is still some way to go.
“It is also a great way to celebrate the game we love by allowing a match to go ahead where many people from different backgrounds share one belief, and that is that we all want to play the game we love and whether gay, lesbian, transgender, black or white and so on we can do this without hate.”
Craig continued with some thoughts on the future of football and the inclusion of the LGBT participants.
“I’m sure that Stonewall will continue for a long time, it’s such a well-run club; but hopefully in the future there wouldn’t be a need for such a club, as the game moves on and embraces everyone.”
And what does Craig think will be the score tomorrow?
“I think the score will be 7-3 to Stonewall! I will grab my first and last of the season. We will concede at least three as Eric, our goalkeeper, is back and he is past it!”