In an incredible moment earlier this year, the first all LGBTQ+ cricket match was held on July 13 when Graces Cricket Club went head-to-head against the Birmingham Unicorns in a one-off friendly.
Graces CC and Birmingham Unicorns are set to meet in June, the first time two exclusively LGBTQ+ cricket teams will have met in an organised match pic.twitter.com/6LJAW1TKYD
— PA Sport (@pasport) May 27, 2021
The match, supported by the England and Wales Cricket Board, marked an important step forward in LGBTQ+ sports.
@Graces_Cricket is the world’s very first LGBTQ club to play the quintessential traditional sport long the domain of English gentlemen. Based in London, they are always looking for more players, supporters and sponsors https://t.co/5vhBFQ9PfV @ILoveGaySports @ILoveGayLondon pic.twitter.com/bvIA9gxWU4
— queerguru (@queerguru) May 7, 2021
Graces Cricket Club has continuously broken down barriers since its founding in 1996. The only queer-inclusive cricket club for two decades, Graces is hailed by its players for providing a safe and inclusive space for people to play cricket, serving a crucial purpose in the sport.
“I joined Graces Cricket Club about eight years ago and I’d only just come out of the closet and I’d stopped playing cricket and I was quite keen to play again but I didn’t feel comfortable going into a standard cricket club and having to come out,” Chris Sherwood, who manages the club’s social media, told the PA news agency.
“You come out once and you spend the rest of your life coming out wherever you go and I was concerned about that and then I stumbled on Graces Cricket Club,” he continued.
This one wasn’t this year, but with the @bhamunicorns officially arriving on the scene this week it feels apt to include this chat with @lachlantsmith, who spearheaded the charge to form the club, from August too. ?https://t.co/1wThP3oV96
— Pride of the Terraces (@PrideofTerraces) January 16, 2021
Lachlan Smith, co-founder of the other team, shared how he felt there was an overdue need to create an inclusive cricket team in Birmingham, and so the Unicorns were born.
In an interview, Smith said, “I’d played cricket for a number of years, and it just struck me one day: Why can’t there be an LGBT cricket team here in Birmingham?”
“I thought there had to be enough people to put 11 players on the park and suddenly, we’ve gone from just being an idea to having selection headaches,” he continues.
Here comes the sun ??…
No seriously now! Summer, we’re coming for you!
— GRACES CRICKET (@Graces_Cricket) May 25, 2021
“The match against the Birmingham Unicorns is a big moment for us, it’s the first all-gay cricket match and for us, it’s about community and it’s about visibility and it’s part of the reason that we exist as a club and one of the roles we have is to counter stereotypes,” Sherwood said.
The match was set for May 23rd; however, because of projected weather, the game was postponed until June 13th, increasing the anticipation.
— Sports Media LGBT+ (@SportsMediaLGBT) June 13, 2021
Graces may have won the match, but both teams certainly came out of the game with the pride of being a part of the first all LGBTQ+ cricket match.
The match was played in brilliant spirit and was competitive to the end. Although we didn’t get the result we wanted I was so proud of the way we worked together as a team in only our second ever game. There is plenty to look forward to in the future.
— Lachlan Smith (@lachlantsmith) June 14, 2021
“This is what we do at the club, supporting people. We are just there for you,” says Graces captain Manish Modi.
Born into a cricket-playing family in India, Modi played at a semi-professional level where being open about his sexuality was not an option.
“Graces has supported me a lot, including when I came out to my father…He’s my hero and has accepted me, and now I’m a proud gay man,” says Modi.
LGBTQ+ presence in sports is crucial for the next generation to see themselves represented on and off the field, and this wonderful cricket match is a testament to the magic that ensues when safe spaces are created for queer people in the sports world.
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