GayFootballExhibition

Leftfooters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leftfooters

 

Leftfooters website states they are a “fun based football team made up mainly of gay and lesbian players. We play every Sunday afternoon in Regents Park, and have a laid back approach of 'jumpers-for-goalposts.'  Our overriding philosophy is that if you can’t play football to save your life then you’ll be perfect for us. Our motley bunch includes people who are very good to people who can just about run for 10 mins at a time, so why not use your Sunday afternoon to come to the park and meet some friendly people who don’t care if you fall flat on your back or do ballet moves while missing the ball. After “next goal wins” we head off for a well earned drink. There is also an opportunity to play in competitive games against other gay teams from around the country, which are great fun. We take part in numerous 5/6/7-a-side tournaments as well as compete in a national gay 11-a-side league.”

The following is a history of the Leftfooters by Chris Simon: 

 ‘Left Foot Forward
On Sunday 21 November 1999, after gathering in The Black Cap public house in Camden Town, fourteen people had an informal kick about in Regent’s Park and Leftfooters Football Club was effectively born. The founder, Neil Caulfield, had already had an aborted attempt at this a few months earlier, but he persisted, canvassed for more interested people and this time he was successful. Indeed, this inaugural kick-about was announced in a pretty high profile article in Axiom Magazine – headlined LEFT FOOT FORWARD - which was later reproduced in the newsletter of the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) to draw further recruits.


In the article Neil was quoted as saying: “The ethos behind the club is to have fun and play football in a non-competitive atmosphere. We are not picking a side based on people’s ability but on their desire to have a fun knockabout game and maybe a few beers afterwards.”
Neil felt that many people would be interested in rediscovering a game they loved but perhaps felt too intimidated to pursue elsewhere - and he was right. He named the club Leftfooters to indicate that it was for people with two left feet (rather than ‘kick with the other foot’ in the manner of ‘bat for the other side’). It was the only name he considered and it meant that the initials would be LFC, just like his beloved Liverpool Football Club. From that day on, sufficient people turned up every other Sunday (later to become every Sunday under Brian Fenelon’s management) to have a lot of fun – playing in all weather and stopping only to admire particularly attractive passers by and on one notable occasion, a rainbow.  Brian, a committed party animal (and another Liverpool fan) also started ‘next goal wins’, the now traditional way of ending kickabouts and heading for a few pints in the Black Cap.


Tournaments 
The first ‘competitive’ matches the club played were at the GFSN’s Annual National Get-Together, which in June 2000 was held in Manchester. ‘Competitive’ matches presented the club with a dilemma. How could it be true to its ethos if it ‘competed’? In the end it was decided that we would play because we wanted to play, but there would be no early nights, no laying off the booze and no ‘selection’ - the teams were picked at random from a baseball cap on the eve of the tournament. We would play for the love of the game. Both of the teams managed to win a game but they didn’t trouble the trophy engraver. For the record, the first ever ‘competitive’ match played by a Leftfooters team resulted in a 5-0 drubbing by a team of people who had never met before and went by the name of the Famous Five.
Every GFSN National Tournament since Manchester 2000 has had Leftfooters representation, with an unprecedented four teams taking part in Glasgow in 2005. Those four teams took all the semi-final spots in the inaugural GFSN Vase – a kind of consolation tournament for the also rans.


Yorkshire Terriers, Leicester Wildecats and (now defunct) Bristol Panthers have all held annual 5 or 6-a-side tournaments and Leftfooters have usually sent teams to those as well. We are known for going anywhere that has a bar really. As Leftfooters steadfastly refuse to ‘select’ teams performance is traditionally unpredictable and bottom place is very often achieved. However, after missing out on a first tournament win in Leicester 2004 by a single goal a Leftfooters team was victorious at the same tournament in September 2005, which made a few people quite emotional. Individual players had received awards, the club had picked up several ‘Fair Play’ trophies and had even won a pool tournament – but this was the first time a ‘proper’ trophy had been won. It was a matter of particular pride that it had been achieved our way, without compromising the ethos that makes the club what it is. On 24 February 2002 Leftfooters played their first ever 11-a-side match against Yorkshire Terriers on the Astroturf at South Leeds Stadium – after a curry and a night out in Bradford naturally. Footers first ever scorer was our legendary singing centre forward – Antonio - and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.


GFSN League
The club had grown steadily in Brian’s care but he felt that two years in charge was quite enough and he handed over the reigns to Michael Hayes. Mike’s arrival coincided with an influx of younger players, which was part of an accelerated period of expansion. It also coincided with the introduction of GFSN’s National 11-a-side League and Leftfooters FC became one of the four founder members. The first game was played on 16 November 2002 against Leicester Wildecats on Astroturf in Caledonian Road and Leftfooters came out on top by 6-5. Despite the winning start we ended up bottom of the table and concluded the campaign with a record 16-0 mismatch in Bristol in July 2003 – which left many wondering whether the club should continue in a league which was proving more challenging than anticipated.


As its second season commenced, the league continued to prove difficult for Leftfooters as our random selection of players encountered increasingly organised opponents. However, despite the struggle, the number of people who wanted to play for London in these matches was growing all the time. In November 2003, after a lot of planning and consultation by Richy Collumbell, Leftfooters were able to pose in their brand new red and white kit, complete with a new club badge and bearing the logo of our sponsoring pub – The Black Cap. The Cap’s manager, Jimmy Smith has been a faithful supporter of the team and all we have to do for this support is drink vast quantities of beer, which we have done - diligently. The colour red was chosen in deference to our founder, Neil Caulfield and his Liverpool supporting ways. “‘Ave it “ – from the Peter Kaye adverts for John Smiths Bitter was chosen as a motto because it was felt to be as succinct a way as any to represent enthusiasm over ability.


At least we looked like a football team at last! The red shirts have proved popular and a great number have been sold. Rather than taking the shirts from a pool as the other clubs tend to do – most Leftfooters’ players wanted to possess their own kit. Each player got a unique squad number and their name across the back (if required). I think it is fair to say that to a lot of us, the shirt has come to mean something.


Not Rubbish Anymore
Indeed, it seemed that Leftfooters would lose every match in the second league season for although the performances were improving, the results were not. On Bank Holiday weekend - 2 May 2004 - Leftfooters headed to Brighton for their last game of the season, staring a whitewash in the face. We had lost six games and one was deemed void due to a withdrawal by Bristol (for which we received no points). As improving Brighton Bandits had beaten us easily in London by 5-0, we were not optimistic. Sure enough, with 25 minutes gone we were trailing by 3-0, but moments before half time, Footers’ debutant left-winger headed home – and everything changed. In the second half Leftfooters’ showed a collective determination to do better. At first we sought respectability (3-2), then parity (3-3) and finally victory (3-4). The thrilling 4-3 victory was our first ever away from home. It is difficult to describe how it felt to be one of a motley crew of mixed ability piss-heads who turned the formbook on its head like that. If I could bottle that feeling, I’d be a rich man. The bewildered Brighton players were very magnanimous in defeat. It was very sunny, there were flowers on the pitch and an old fashioned windmill stood benignly on a nearby hill – but it really did happen! Honest! We still finished bottom again though.


Any new born optimism that had come from that victory was promptly smothered in its crib as we were battered 11-0 in our opening fixture of the third season against Yorkshire on a sunny September day in Wakefield.  Despite the poor start it turned out to be Leftfooters’ most successful campaign, four wins proving enough to lift the club clear of its traditional bottom place into third out of five. By the last two home games of the season, interest in taking part in the matches had become huge making it very difficult to administer. The club had fallen victim to its own success in a way, but it is great that everyone wants to play for the club knowing that its over-riding principles are not negotiable. At the end of the third league season Leftfooters had won three consecutive home games and a word which had never been applied to the club before became apt – consistency!


‘Footers International
During the league’s third season, Leftfooters hosted the Football For All 11-a-side Tournament, which was supported by the Football Association. The domestic teams were joined by teams and individuals from France, Germany, Denmark and Spain in a frozen and eventually soaking wet Regent’s Park. The tournament was won by Bristol Panthers who narrowly defeated Paris Arc-En-Ciel in the final and despite the inclement weather the tournament was judged a success both on and off the pitch from the official opening event at Comptons of Soho to the awards ceremony at the Black Cap. This was not Leftfooters’ first international activity, after a trip to Amsterdam in December 2000 (which was purely a piss up), teams had travelled to Copenhagen (August 2003), Berlin (March 2004) and Barcelona (November 2004) for tournaments and friendlies and a trip to Paris followed in May 2005.


In June 2005, Mike Hayes handed over responsibility to Michael Collins after three years during which he had seen Leftfooters go from strength to strength. A presentation was made to him to express our appreciation and affection, during a pretty wild party at the Black Cap.
In August 2005, the new ‘Gayczar’ led a full Leftfooters squad to Copenhagen to take part in the ‘recreational’ level of the IGLFA World Cup for the first time. At first the main aim, besides getting drunk and having fun of course, was to avoid humiliation especially when the club was drawn in the competition’s ‘Group of Death’ with the holders Florida Storm, the hosts, Pan Fodbold of Copenhagen and Hotlanta Heat/Wild Westphalians..


Leftfooters surprised many people, not least themselves, by what they achieved and had a really positive impact on a very enjoyable tournament. The club’s record win in all competitions (6-0) was achieved against Prague and an undreamt of semi-final place was secured with ‘Footers gaining a surprise fourth place. But many feel that Leftfooters FC had its finest hour to date when they lost only 2-1 to the holders, Florida Storm. The Americans were fulsome in their praise for us. The match result on their web-site was annotated with the following: "Just a note to all the viewers back home...this single team had the most spirit and sportsmanship I have ever witnessed on and off the field! Good Job London looking forward to seeing you on the field and partying in Copenhagen!!"


The tremendous Leftfooters’ supporters and the magnificent Yorkshire Terriers who roared encouragement throughout and added a lot of humour to the occasion share the accolade. Who could forget the Mexican Wave, which the Florida subs ended up joining? Such was the noise that players on far-flung pitches realised that something special was going on and the crowd grew steadily throughout. Sensing an upset, the Paris Arc-en-Ciel manager yelled “Allez Rouges! Allez Rouges!” passionately from the touchline. It was not to be, but the performance was so good that the players were anything but despondent. Leftfooters usually have a great time whenever they get together – but it is days like these that you live for.


Parklife
Whether Regent’s Park is a sun-baked desert, a rain-swept swamp or a frozen wasteland you will still find Leftfooters kicking a ball about on a Sunday afternoon from about 2.00 pm. Even if there is a league match, or a tournament, there will still be a kickabout on Gloucester Green, by the side of London Zoo (remember, Footers in red – animals in fur – mistakes can be made). Some players choose never to play competitively – but they are regulars - Leftfooters to the core. In the summer, when light permits, there is most often a smaller kickabout on Wednesday evenings.


The weekly kickabout on Sundays will always be the hub of Leftfooters activity. There were 14 at the first one in November 1999 but there are more commonly 20-30 nowadays. There have been up to 48 and one day there will surely be 50. For an informal group this can cause problems of organisation – but we have coped – and we will have to continue to cope. It would be wrong to turn people away and deny them the chance of meeting some brilliant people and having a great deal of fun. Leftfooters is a truly unique and wonderful football club.”

Read about Leftfooters’ successful bid to bring the IGLFA World Championship to London. 

 

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