WHO ARE THE STRAFFE KETTEN?
Created in 2010, the Straffe Ketten RFC is Belgium's first and only fully inclusive rugby club. A proud member of IGR (International Gay Rugby) and participating in different competitions in Belgium and abroad, we are as much about the teamwork and brotherhood as we are about rugby and making our sport more inclusive.
Just like much of Brussels, our teammates come from around the world and speak many languages. We are diverse in terms of sexual orientation, culture, ethnic origin, and social background. We share our love of the game and have become a small big family.
We were created in 2010 as the gay rugby team of Brussels. We perceived a lot of interest for rugby in the gay community in Brussels, but very few guys actually attempted to join a rugby club. We swiftly became a socially, culturally and ethnically diverse club united by our passion for our sport. We exist to give everybody in Belgium the opportunity to discover rugby in a fun, social and inclusive environment.
We have around 45 players, gay, bisexual and straight, from more than 15 nationalities, different ages and backgrounds. Some of us have a lot of rugby experience, but most of the guys had never played rugby before joining the club. A real sense of brotherhood has developed within the team, it’s become like a big and fun family for some of us.
We have become a fully-fledged and respected part of the Belgian LGBT community, representing our club in many events such as the Belgian Pride, the Bear Pride of Brussels, and the Antwerp Pride.
Is an inclusive rugby team necessary?
Many studies show the physical and psychological health benefits that are result of practising sport. Team sports, additionally, offer education in values, increase in self esteem and a group to belong to.
However, sports have often been perceived as a forbidden world for the LGBT community. Gender-based stereotypes reinforced by the media, and the fear to be rejected, have created a barrier that have kept away from sports one of the groups which could profit most from the positive effects of its practice.
Even when rugby isn’t a particularly homophobic sport, its manly image and quotes such as “rugby isn’t for sissies” have stopped many people from playing rugby in the past. Luckily, it has not stopped thousands of women play rugby all over the world; and we hope it will not stop you joining our club.
Things have improved since 2010. We have seen several personalities announce their coming out in sports such as rugby, american football, skiing, swimming, boxing... Things are changing, but there is still a lot of work to be done. As longs as it is necessary, we will continue offering the LGBT community (and their friends) an opportunity, a “safe” environment to start playing a sport that they would not otherwise have seriously considered.
We also play an important role in giving visibility to the LGBT community in the sports world. With our participation in national and international tournaments we want to break stereotypes and combat homophobia in sport.
As a rugby club, our main activities are training twice per week and playing matches. But we are a very social rugby club as well: we participate actively in the LGBT community of Brussels and the Belgian pride; we organise parties, we have a regular nights when we go out and meet our supporters, we watch together international matches, etc.
Our team competed during 5 years in the French-speaking regional league of Belgium (LBFR) in the 3rd regional division, although we took a couple of years off the competition and at the moment we only play a calendar of friendly matches. We meet and play regularly against other inclusive teams every season, in different competitions and tournaments. Our biggest friends and rivals are the Amsterdam Lowlanders, against who we play every year our own trophy, the Thalys Cup. Apart from Amsterdam, we’ve traveled to Lisbon, Paris, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Madrid, Amsterdam, Dublin and Cologne. We have invited the Stockholm Berserkers and the Cologne Crushers for their first international trip. We’ve organised several big parties in Brussels, with more to come in the future.
One of the highlights in our short life was in May 2015, when we hosted the Union Cup 2015 Brussels. It was Europe’s largest gay rugby tournament in that moment, with more than 800 participants. 24 teams came to Brussels for a long weekend of rugby and friendship. And we even won the Union Plate against the Caledonian Thebans in a vibrant final.
Do you want to now more about the team?