The players of Ciervos Pampas RC, during a training session at Manuel Belgrano Park, in Buenos Aires (Argentina), on March 5, 2023.Valentina Fusco
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It is a Sunday of luminous vitality in the Manuel Belgrano Park.
Cyclists, soccer players and tennis players announce themselves through the entrance door, arriving to enjoy a beautiful day in one of the great sports centers of Buenos Aires.
Behind some sheds and after the grills that in a few hours will be smoking and full of barbecue, the three H-shaped posts of a rugby field can be seen in the distance.
The coach gives instructions to a group of 20 players, who begin with a warm-up.
The scene could be repeated in any of the 574 clubs registered by the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR).
But this one has a particularity that makes it unique.
Its players wear a pink shirt, blue shorts and socks in the colors of the LGBT flag.
The athletes who are now running behind an oval ball are part of Ciervos Pampas Rugby Club, the first rugby club for sexual diversity in Latin America.
"A space free of homophobia, committed to the human rights of the LGBTI+ community", they define themselves.
It was born ten years ago with the idea of becoming a safe space for the gay community and five years ago it became a rugby club, which today has about 40 members.
“As of the creation, many demands related to sport begin to emerge, which we all know is more than physical activity.
And others to the development of non-hegemonic spaces.
We live three moments: that of containment, that of inclusion and then we began to engage in politics, in the sense of demanding changes to our sports proposal.
In short, we are talking about the fact that sport has to be a right for everyone and not a privilege for some”, said Caio Varela, president of the club.
Detail of the socks of the Ciervos Pampas RC players.Valentina Fusco
The initiative was born in meetings of the Amateur Sports Association for Inclusion, where various disciplines are practiced.
There are those who proposed soccer and others expressed their desire to "grasp the ball with their hands."
With the impulse of some who had practiced rugby, the club was forged and adding boyfriends and friends of the first creators.
When the time came to give it a name, Pampas arose from a reference to the plains landscape in the center of Buenos Aires.
A question of intellectual registration forced them to add the word Deer.
“The deer pushes with its antlers and we found something symbolic there.
We also often associate it with Bambi.
There's something half-sissy about the deer.
And we like that”, says Varela, with a smile.
Over time the open call came because rugby needs at least 15 players to enter a field and as many to complete a training session.
At the time they played their first game.
And the other time they joined a tournament organized by the UAR.
The mere presence of Ciervos Pampas was a challenge to certain rules that no one disputed in that sport.
“That speech that is given as truth says that you have to be heterosexual, with a certain body posture, with certain phrases, with a male ideology… There are a lot of gay, bisexual and non-binary partners who have no place in traditional clubs .
Why are they going there?
There is an ideology imposed by the hegemonic rugby that is violent, macho, classist...”, adds Varela.
In this way, being on the field with his identity, with his multicolored flag and with his name, meant a small revolution in the world of Argentine rugby.
A change that is not only exercised on the field but also in training instances offered by the club, such as the School of Gender, Sports and Human Rights.
And a clear protocol on situations of harassment and sexual violence.
Pampas RC deer during training. VALENTINA FUSCO
Many of the violent situations typical of traditional and macho rugby arise in matches between Ciervos Pampas and other clubs that are not diverse.
There on the grass, in the competition of a contact sport, the hatred and hurtful sayings of the rivals emerge, which they try not to respond to.
“It's a lot of fun when we play with other teams because we wear very bright colors.
The first thing the rivals see is a tide of whores in pink t-shirts, even though there are guys on our team who are straight.
At some point, when we get a
we encourage each other by saying: 'Come on bitches!
Let's go girls!'
It is a way of accepting what we are doing with sport and from a political perspective.
And we also tell our rivals that it's their problem if they feel uncomfortable.
That's where the other person's prejudice comes into play,” said Jonathan Fonseca, team captain, who discovered the club at a Pride March.
From the club, the directive to the players is not to respond to this violence.
“Yes, there was a match in which we filed a complaint for a specific homophobic attack before the URBA (Buenos Aires Rugby Union).
The referee did not record that situation of violence or the yellow and red cards," Varela added.
Juan Agustín Grabher knows well what traditional rugby clubs are like.
He started playing at the age of 14 and spent more than five years at Club Almafuerte in Ciudad Evita in the province of Buenos Aires.
He tells that at first he was not aware of certain attitudes and comments;
Only with distance did he gain perspective and was able to compare his experiences in that club and in Ciervos Pampas, which he is a member of today.
“They were situations of micromachismo.
For example, taking women's rugby as something minor and despising their work.
A bad pass, for them, was a 'girl pass'.
They told you to run like a man or we were going to break the rival's ass.
At that time it naturalized quite a bit.
When you get into the militant question, you realize that there are different possibilities of being an athlete.
And that maybe a woman's pass can be a good pass,” Grabher said.
Two Ciervos Pampas RC players pass the ball. VALENTINA FUSCO
The idea of inclusion establishes a power relationship between those who include and those who are included.
The Ciervos Pampas player -and the entire club- speaks of a radical change.
“We want to transform the sport.
I don't mean to change the rules but to make things different.
Neither elitist, nor misogynist, nor homophobic nor transphobic.
Sport has to be an enjoyment and a right.
It is what we have been working for since Ciervos ”, he added.
Baptisms in rugby clubs are a tradition, although there are directives from the UAR and rugby unions to prohibit them.
These rites are nothing more than acts of violence, humiliation and abuse disguised as "customs" that are addressed to new players.
Grabher remembers that in his old club, in the Under 19 category, the ritual was to touch all his teammates' ass after a game.
“You are doing something against your will.
It is very violent and it is not the most serious thing that happened compared to other situations, ”he recalls.
Ciervos Pampas breaks with this practice with another type of welcome;
a small gesture of brotherhood as simple as affectionate.
“We continue to do the baptism.
Do you know what it consists of?
A collective hug to the one who plays for the first time.
We do it because we know that 500 things go through your head when you enter the field with socks with the colors of the LGBT flag.
And you are occupying a place that historically they told you that you could not be.
There are a lot of people who want to transform the sport”, defines Varela.
When training is over, the Ciervos Pampas players gather under a tree.
The president says that they seek to broaden the horizons and include new sports.
Someone starts a fire and they cook up some burgers for the third half, the rugby tradition where rivals come together to share a meal and a drink.
There is a symphony at home in those talks, in the laughter and in someone's comment about last night's recital by Lali Esposito, the pop singer and new gay icon.
The image of the hug returns, of love as a flag and engine of change.