Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Freeman: Openly gay player enliven Milo football

An excellent story by Caecent Noot-Magsumbol for The Freeman about an openly gay teen playing in the Milo Little Olympics Football Tournament.  I don't normally re-publish stories from a competitor, but I have to make an exception for this one.

The original story is here 

CEBU, Philippines - In a still discriminating world for gays especially in a “man’s sport”, Carl Griffin “Carla Griffins” Aller finds the Milo Little Olympics a comforting venue for gender equality - a hallowed grounds where he gain respect and equal treatment from others.

Yes, the 16-year-old Aller is a member of the oftentimes ridiculed gay community, but he is proud to be just the way he is.

The graduating student from Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion-Mandaue, has joined the country's biggest and most prestigious developmental sports tournament for three years already and he is doubly happy to be part of history as the first batch to play on an 11-a-side format that is now being applied in the Nestle-sponsored tilt.

“Had I been into volleyball, perhaps people don't think much of me and they won't even notice me,” Aller said in an exclusive interview with The FREEMAN. “But because I'm into football, some quarters especially the players have casted doubts on my true gender. But now that they see me playing, they already believe that I am truly gay.”

Even Dave Gerali, a member of the Philippine Under-22 coaching staff who is also contected with the Don Bosco Technology Center (DBTC), finds it hard to believe that Aller is a bonafide member of the congregation of gays.

“Don Bosco also has a gay player in the past, but he's not like Aller who is bold enough to show off his true colors,” said Gerali, who once played for the Queen City United in the elite United Football League (UFL).

And take note, Aller is not only a reserve nor a substitute player. He is a trusted right winger of the CIC-M squad.

Aller is willing to sit out and give others a chance, but their coach insisted he should play, a decision agreed upon unanimously by his teammates considering how tough it is to see action in a full-court battle as compared to a seven-a-side in the past 16 stangings of the MLO.

For people who have seen him play for the first time, they must have thought that Aller was just kidding around like most teenagers do.

But in a soccer match, to mimic a gay person walking down while swaying his shoulders is not a normal sighting, much more during a high level competition of MLO's magnitude.

The thing of beauty about Aller is that he knows what he’s doing on the pitch. He is courageous enough to make attempts for goal and tenacious enough to mount a porous defensive stance on their opponents.

It's funny though that at one point when Jennifer Lopez’s hit “Dance Again” was played during their match against St. Joseph School of Mactan, Aller couldn't help himself but dance to that lively tune. But he knows very well when to take care of serious business. When the dust settled, CIC-M via a 6-0 shutout.

For what he’s doing in or out of the field, Aller is fortunate enough that he has not been bullied around nor been unfairly treated by his teammates or their rivals.

However, Aller enquivocally admitted having enjoyed “special treatment” when it comes to his training regimen. “I don't do push-ups. I do sit-ups only because my strength is in my legs,” he said.

Even though he knew beforehand how hard football is, Aller did not think of playing other sports like gymnastics, volleyball or athletics.

“I feel so alive when I play football. I so love this sport. I have stopped for a year, but when I returned, there was no more stopping me.”

Unknown to many, Aller hails from a family of diehard football disciples with his dad Genard, a Cebu Sports Hall of Famer, the most prominent of them all.

“All I know is that my dad is very popular during his time and that they won in the Nationals. The only thing I don't know is what team he has played or who he really is in football.”

Carl’s dad Genard is actually a member of the M. Lhuillier Football Team that was enshrined two years ago into the hallowed portals of Cebu Sports Hall of Fame for winning the National Inter-Club Championships in 1988 - a feat unmatched by any Cebu team until today.

“I also have other siblings who love football, but my dad said I possess the biggest potential in the sport. He said I was the most athletic like him. He has a very high confidence in me, even if he knows I’m gay”.

The young Aller said there is no pressure for him to follow in his dad’s footsteps nor to be “straight” through the world's most famous sport. He simply yearns to continue showing off his football skills in events like the Milo Little Olympics where he gains equal treatment and respect.

“When I’m playing especially here in Milo Little Olympics, I feel so proud of myself. I feel proud because I can make things happen. That I can be very competitive even if I’m gay and that I am better than straight guys who are afraid of trying because they lack faith in themselves. With this, I gain respect,” said Aller. 

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