Queer soccer fandom embracing Louisville’s NWSL in all its magical gay glory

by Sarah Gardiner

After an incredible year for Women’s Soccer, the news just keeps getting better with the announcement of an upcoming National Women’s Soccer League expansion to Louisville in 2021.

Women’s Soccer is a really queer sport. Like, really queer. Within the US National Team alone, there are four openly out players, including World Cup superstar Megan Rapinoe and the adorably engaged Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris. The NWSL is fantastically even gayer, with players like Joanna Loman who was one half of the first professional athlete teammate engagements with former finance, Lianne Sanderson, during their time on the Washington Spirit.

Between the players and the notoriously LGBT+ fandom, queer people are the heart and soul of ladies’ soccer. And all of that magnificent, gay-ass energy is about to descend upon Louisville with the introduction of our only major professional sports team in the state.

We did it queeros—we are the ones who finally brought professional sports back to Kentucky!

As a fair-weather sports fan, soccer existed on the periphery of my athletic experience during my time growing up in the bluegrass. It just wasn’t a thing we did. My dad always called it, “a Europe sport,” and we spent my childhood afternoons tossing softballs or running laterals on the backyard football field we imagined in our minds (quarterback of her High School ladies’ flag-football team here!). Soccer just wasn’t on my radar. Until I came out.

Coming out is such an intense process because not only are you learning about yourself, but you have a whole new culture to absorb as well. A new diction, a new culture, a new you—the you you. My first real exposure to soccer was through this new lesbian lens, and I fell in love with the sport, with the fans, but most of all with the amazingly diverse culture that formed around the game. My baby-dyke education took place at a classroom on the sideline of a pitch.

The first NWSL game I attended was a Washington Spirit match at their small stadium on the Maryland side of the DC metro region. Imagine UofL’s soccer fields and shrink it by half. The cramped space didn’t feel so small though the moment the “hooligans” marched out to their fan section behind the home goal. Unlike the men’s games I had been to—where the fandom was mostly overgrown fraternity brothers too drunk to remember their own chants—the NWSL fans were largely women waving pride flags right alongside the team banner. The crowd looked like Saturday night at the gay club, but with less straight people.

It was magical. It was gay. It was a sport for me.

When you haven’t really had openly out representation in sports, it can be hard to care about the game or feel like a fan. It is amazing how quickly that changes when you see people like you on the field. With Louisville now lacking a lesbian bar (RIP Purrswaytions), this new NWSL team feels like a perfect opportunity to bring some concentrated queer energy back to the city.

The Washington Spirit was my home team for many years, and they will always have a place in my heart, but I can’t wait for the day I put down my Spirit jersey and slip on my Louisville colors. I will be Kentucky proud to cheer for the purple and gold.

If you go to a game, you will surely see me in the fan section waving a rainbow flag and screaming that the other player was totally off-sides. And please do go to a game. Buy a whole season pass while you’re at it! Louisville has shown amazing support for Lou City—let’s show the women the same love.