'Being gay was not even an option'
August 26, 2014
Gay rugby teams from around the world have arrived in Australia to try to win the Bingham Cup from the three-time champion Sydney Convicts.
The Bingham Cup
The Bingham Cup © Getty Images
The Bingham Cup is a gruelling tournament of intense rugby, and 1000 players and supporters representing 30 gay and inclusive rugby clubs from 15 countries have arrived in Australia for the biennial event named after 9/11 hero Mark Bingham. Most participants are gay, but many teams have straight players, in the spirit of inclusivity, and the event is one of the largest 15-a-side rugby tournaments in the world.
London's Kings Cross Steelers, the world's first gay rugby team, are among the leading contenders to win the cup, but first-grade captain Chris Buckmaster used to believe that he could not play a tough sport such as rugby because of his sexuality.
"I grew up in a rugby-dominated society where being gay was not even an option, let alone being gay and actually playing competitive sport," the South African said. "This led me to believe that I could not possibly actually be gay myself, given I excelled in sport and was also the school prefect at a private all boys school.
"All of my misconceptions about myself and gay people were demolished when I went to my first training session with the Kings Cross Steelers; I was very surprised by the high level of rugby and focus on the game."
Dany Samreth, captain of San Francisco Fog, the two-time Bingham Cup champions for whom Mark Bingham played before his death, said of the standard of competition that "too many people may assume that a bunch of gay guys holding a rugby tournament is just an excuse to have big party with a rugby theme - but nothing could be further from the truth".
The Fog hosted the first Bingham Cup in 2002, after Mark's death on United 93, which he helped to crash into the fields of Pennsylvania.
"We have been training very hard over the last two years and have received strong support from high-level athletes and coaches," Samreth said.
"We're very focused on winning our third Bingham Cup and bringing it back to San Francisco where the tournament began."
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