I had just come out of a rough patch in my life when I joined the team. I’d broken up with a guy so I took to clubbing and drinking to cope. I was going through a lot of difficult changes in my life. It was around this time that I joined the Jozi Cats.
I live in Pretoria, but I travel to Johannesburg to play with my team because there are no gay or inclusive competitive rugby clubs in my area. I found out about the team in August 2015 shortly after it was launched. We now have 25 members and the numbers are growing. One of the goals for this team, other than playing rugby, is to break the stereotypes society has about the LGBTI community. The team has people from different racial groups but there’s no division between us. I think being a minority group as a whole makes our tolerance for each other even that much greater.
Jozi Cats made me feel supported and protected
When I was feeling lonely it wasn’t my friends who I’ve known for years who supported me, but my teammates. They made me feel like I had joined a family. I’ve not known the team members that long but I already feel like I’ve bonded with these chaps on and off the field.
Emotionally, the Jozi Cats have been my pillar of strength. Being part of the team has helped me get off alcohol and the endless soul-numbing parties. I now have something that I actually look forward to doing. Joining the team has definitely been a turning point in my life in how I manage my work and relationship frustrations.
You don’t need to be a professional to be part of the team
This is my first time participating in competitive sports and my fitness levels aren’t that high. My only attempt at sports was playing touch rugby with my cousins when I was young. My family is very sports-driven, they love rugby and soccer, and that is how I kept up with the rules of the game. At my first game as a member, I quickly realised that they’re very friendly and open to including me. The guys we played against had a lot of experience, and we got thrashed on the field, but not once did any of us complain.
Jozi Cats are challenging the macho rugby status quo
The Jozi Cats rugby club is a brilliant idea and I think it came at the right time. People seem to have opened up a lot more to the gay community than they did when I was in my 20’s. Gay people are more comfortable to be themselves and now feel at ease in joining clubs like Jozi Cats where they won’t be judged. Although there will always be those who don’t agree with our lifestyles, sometimes straight people forget that we are normal men who do normal things like playing sports. I think that a rugby team made out of gay men can show the world that we are just normal guys who like to play rugby. We can do the things straight men do, we just have better hair.
*As told to Xongani Maluleka by Francois du Toit