Going so far to get so near, yet so far

Silver. Again. For the second time in three years, I’ve played in a London Titans team that’s come within touching distance of international glory, but I should be glad that we had a competition to play in at all, as the Miami OutGames descended into farce.

We were somewhere over the Atlantic when word reached us that the competition that we’d been looking forward to for the best part of two years had effectively been cancelled – apart from the football, aquatics and – you’ll like this – country and western dancing.

It’s all kicking off… yet much of it didn’t

Although we would have a competition – thanks to the IGLFA emptying its bank account and an anonymous competitor stumping up $8,000 – there would be no opening or closing ceremonies, no shuttle busses to the out-of-town football pitch location, and no masseurs available once we got there.

Still, they’re very much first world problems, especially when compared to those who were left without competitions – there were an understandably upset softball team on our plane who had been left high and dry, while I spoke to other athletes over the week who had been similarly screwed over.

Volunteers, the City of Miami Beach and other local organisations pulled together to add a few more sports to the roster, but the promised festival of sport ultimately wasn’t to be for many would-be competitors who had travelled thousands of miles in good faith.

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Cruising to the final in the hot, hot sun

We should’ve been alerted to the impending chaos when the promised two-division competition was merged into a single tournament due to lack of competing teams. Because of this, our first game was against a would-be top tier team, with an organised performance eking out a 0-0 draw, before a come-from-behind win in the day’s second match saw us end day one with four points.

Due to the fudged nature of the competition, we were in a group of three, with two teams qualifying for knockout games. As a result, a win on the Tuesday morning would have clinched it, but we could only draw 1-1 against an inferior team. Fortunately, a similar result in the afternoon meant we had done enough, with a game to spare, albeit with a touch of sunstroke on my part.

With one eye on the semi-final, it’d be understandable if we lost focus in the dead rubber, but it wasn’t to be – a couple of early goals for us meant we could revert to an organised shape ahead of the evening’s knockout game.

While the daytime matches had been hot (around 40 degrees, when you include the humidity), I’ve never finished a non-rainy game as soaked as I was after our semi-final victory over San Francisco. A mix of it still being warm, the effort put in and lack of evaporation made for some very soggy kits.

The final reckoning

Although kits were dry and fresh for the final, it seemed like they were still sodden and heavy for the first 15 minutes, as we failed to get out of the traps and conceded the only goal of the game to the somewhat Danish Stockholm Snipers.

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The pain at the end was both emotional and physical – I’d taken a whack on the knee, while there was a dislocated shoulder, sprained ankle and various other ailments among the squad – and it took a while to dissipate. At least in Hamburg we were outplayed – this time around, we were so much closer to winning Titans’ first international crown.

There are plenty of positives, though – none of the three would-be top tier teams outplayed us, and our only defeat of the week was to one of them in the final. In 2018, it’s Paris for the Gay Games – much closer to home, hopefully much better organised and another opportunity for us to go for gold.

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