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23 Sep 2011

From mirror balls to leather: First gay football team in Hong Kong

The dizzying laser rays in gay bars and the floodlights of a football pitch seem to be irreconcilably distant. One-Nil, the first gay football team in Hong Kong, attempts to bridge the two. Raymond Ko talks to Peter Sabine and Janson Mui, founding members of One-Nil.

It’s 2009, on an ordinary Friday night at a gay bar in Hong Kong. Janson Mui and Peter Sabine start talking about their favourite football team, Manchester United, both surprised that there are other gay men who like football. From then, they decided to see if there were enough to form a football team. “I was at first sceptical that we could form a gay football team,” said Peter. But Janson was ardent. “We went to gay bars, posted on gay websites, emailed our friends, to see if anyone was interested,” said Janson. “And soon we received enough responses to build a team with six to seven core players." 

Since its founding, One-Nil has progressed significantly in terms of fame and skill. The team has been featured in TimeOut Hong Kong, as well as local gay magazine DimSum. More important to Peter and Janson, who are serious footballers, is the team’s increasing technical aplomb. “We started playing in a 7-a-side league last year, and since then we have been advancing slowly and steadily. We began by losing badly, but we have now achieved a few draws and wins,” said Peter. “It is also encouraging to see teammates who were complete novices becoming skilled footballers,” said Janson. 

Despite One-Nil’s technical advances, its most outstanding feature continues to be the sexual orientation of its players. How does the team reconcile the worlds of bars and pitches? “In the beginning, we feared that there would be a lot of mess, such as hook-ups in the team. Luckily, this never happened,” said Peter. “In a way, we are trying to break the stereotype that gay men can’t be good at football. There are gay guys who don’t like bars and clubs, and who prefer to make friends with other gay guys on a football pitch.” 

Peter Sabine and Janson Mui (right), founding members of the One-Nil

“As for our opposing teams, sometimes they know that we are gay and sometimes they don’t, but it has never created a problem for us,” he added. The team is not all hard work and no play. “Of course, we also hang out together at gay bars every week,” said Peter, who is also a DJ at Volume.

Another special feature of One-Nil is its balanced mix of local and expatriate players. Instructions barked out on the field are in both Cantonese and English. The league in which One-Nil competes identifies teams by country names. Since the team’s name in the league is Iceland, the Asian ‘Icelanders’ sometimes play against the majority-expatriate South Koreans.

It is not easy to organise a football team with little resources. “Public football pitches are hard to book. We often have to rent pitches at inflated prices. Practice depends very much on availability of pitches. However, we have just found a private venue, so we are looking forward to more regular practices,” says Janson. The rent for pitches is made up by both the players themselves and private sponsors. Another problem the team faces is finding reliable players. “Some players, for whatever reason, do not show up as promised,” Peter said but added that now that they have a core group of about 10 players, no-shows have become less problematic..

Looking into the future, One-Nil aims to be still more competitive. “We have to get better, before we play against other gay football teams overseas,” said Peter. The team is also building connections to Stonewall FC, a successful gay football team in England, especially in the area of players exchange. As a nod to its gay origins and to raise funds, the team is planning to launch a calendar featuring (almost) nude photos of its players. 

As to who can join the team, One-Nil operates a very liberal policy. “We have had one very talented lesbian on our team. Some of our players are straight. Many came to us with no experience in football. So as long as you are interested in football, and willing to commit, feel free to drop us a line,” Peter said.

Interested readers can contact One-Nil through their Facebook page.

Hong Kong

Reader's Comments

1. 2011-09-23 20:05  
good stuff..all the best to you guys/girls
2. 2011-09-23 20:10  
This is really good news - one- nil at half time, but three - nil at the final whistle?

Just one thing. If you two are serious footballers, how come you don't see beyond Manchester United?? Support a lesser club and you'll see how one-nil might grow

3. 2011-09-23 20:22  
wah..the guy with red shirt in the picture very cute
4. 2011-09-23 21:01  
which red shirt ?
5. 2011-09-23 21:26  
Fantastic :) I play with Stonewall FC, if only on the 3rd team and it has been a great experience since I joint. Next time I come to HK I shall approach you to play some games while there :) Good luck!
6. 2011-09-23 22:55  
Its always good to show gays like football too :)
7. 2011-09-24 00:43  
Intriguing. I love football too. Liverpool's the team I love on the BPL:-)! Go One-Nil, go :-)!
Comment #8 was deleted by its author on 2011-09-24 00:46
Comment #9 was deleted by its author on 2011-09-24 10:18
10. 2011-09-24 01:02  
thanks everyone,,, wanna support us to become our fans on fb ?

11. 2011-09-24 05:43  
Hope to see more gay football teams from other countries.
12. 2011-09-24 07:11  
"The dizzying laser rays in gay bars and the floodlights of a football pitch seem to be irreconcilably distant"

What - so gay people can't like/play football? (Do straight footballers/football fans never go out to clubs?)

Nice of Fridae to be so patronising, in addition to some parts of the mainstream heterosexual community.

Way to go, guys.
13. 2011-09-24 07:17  
Nice to see something out of the stereotype. Good for you boys/girls!!!
14. 2011-09-24 12:37  
Have fun guys !
15. 2011-09-24 13:04  
1 - 0

kinda like that. see, doesn't take much of your dirty mind to appreciate the name in numerics...
16. 2011-09-24 14:38  
Gay clubs in Asia

Gay sports clubs are available in most big European cities and regular international tournaments are held. It is traditional that the host city arranges accommodation for visiting players - thus making the costs more affordable. I lived in Brussels until recently - there you have badminton, tennis, swimming, "futsal" and among other sports/activities available - www.bgs.org. - if you are visiting you would be very welcome at any activity

I am sure that with a lot of hard work by dedicated individuals the same could be achieved in Asia. This would help to show an alternative view of gay people different from the "public stereotype".
17. 2011-09-24 14:39  
where you guys pratice???
18. 2011-09-24 14:42  
there's juz something funny about a bunch of homos chasing after "balls" lolz XD
19. 2011-09-24 16:02  
Funny, #18, but you're assuming that there aren't already a bunch of homos (albeit closeted) chasing after a ball professionally now and making much more money than most of us ever could even if we combined our incomes. Gareth Thomas is a real-life professional rugby player who captains the Welsh national team and he's also openly gay. Sports, professional or otherwise, is no longer as caveman macho as it once was and a bunch of guys chasing after a ball is nothing more than a bunch of guys chasing after a ball. What rule says they have to be straight?
Comment edited on 2011-09-25 01:02:29
20. 2011-09-24 16:59  
c'mon one-nil!
add oil!!

btw my fav english premier league team is manchester city.
21. 2011-09-24 20:07  
Good stuff! Glad that HK starts to organise sporting events/teams too!
22. 2011-09-24 21:18  
we have Olympics for Youth, and Special Olympic, so why not a Pink Olympic?

Comment edited on 2011-09-24 21:19:26
23. 2011-09-24 23:08  
nice sexy boys l!!
Comment #24 was deleted by its author on 2011-09-25 12:39
25. 2011-09-25 06:27  
Wonderful:). Football (soccer in u.s.) is a fantastic sport, so really glad about this piece of news:)
26. 2011-09-25 08:02  
It's about time! :-)
27. 2011-09-25 10:57  
#22 - never heard of the Gay Games?
28. 2011-09-25 12:40  
It nice to see gaymen up for a very friendly leisure activity. Right on you guys to prove that we all are not pub going guys who always looking for a hook. i hope to catch your game one day if i ever in hong kong.
29. 2011-09-25 13:34  
Right guy is ugly..... lol
30. 2011-09-25 19:20  
good job
31. 2011-09-26 00:02  
Dear friends,
Please support M. Ravi's constitutional challenge of Section 377A by attending the hearing at the Court of Appeal this Tuesday, 27th September at 10 a.m.
This is a watershed event in Singapore's LGBT history.
Thank you,
Roy Tan.
For further details, please see:
32. 2011-09-26 03:04  
@ #29 so your point is? useless comment.
33. 2011-09-26 04:59  
"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Bill Shankly. Go Janson!
34. 2011-09-26 06:17  
Football is all about teamwork. Who's gay or straight does not define us . I can assure you there are gay guys on every team,amateur or professional. It's time for us as gay men to stop drawing a line in the sand and just accept that we are all part of the human race. If others want to draw that line it should not be OUR issue, but an opportunity to educate.
35. 2011-09-26 08:36  
Totally agree with you # 34.
# 29 - Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. It's not a very nice thing to say . Now go and " Stand and face the wall. lol ..
36. 2011-09-26 08:37  
Totally agree with you # 34.
# 29 - Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. It's not a very nice thing to say . Now go and " Stand and face the wall. lol ..
37. 2011-09-26 12:35  
Thank you no 29, 35 and Alec.

we are trying our best for the team.
38. 2011-09-26 13:46  
wow! so good to hear! :D
but actually not only stamina control they need on the field... but also mind control... especially when you are facing the player that had the face of your type and he *wink* at you...

not to be offensive... >.
39. 2011-09-26 18:02  
#29... you are a fool. Janson is a really great guy and very cute. I am very happy to class him as a good friend!
40. 2011-09-28 15:57  
Slapper 38 ... LOL

But true!!

Just keep your mind on the bigger ball!!

41. 2011-10-02 11:56  
42. 2011-10-02 15:36  
Wow nice, but I do wonder football is just football, gay or straight, it will still be football.

@29, dude really?? Shallowness called, it want its attention back.
43. 2011-11-12 04:49  
Hi All.
There are actually a few gay football teams already in Asia. Sydney Rangers FC was the first established in 1997 and play domestically and Internationally. Japanese Samurai have been around for nearly as long and recently I helped establish gay football clubs in Melbourne and Wellington NZ. If you are gay and play football I can help you find a team or get one going as the delegate for the IGLFA in Asia
44. 2013-01-01 04:50  
I agree with "vercoda", statement # 12. This article, and it seems this football team, demonstrates a lot of internalized homophobia and discrimination. The assumption is made that someone who goes to a gay bar is a "bitch" and therefore gay bars are lesser places than the football pitch. Is it possible that these football players think that because they are now behaving more like straight men that they are somehow better? Why would we want to mimic straight men? Are we ashamed of ourselves? Do we need to make nasty, judgmental statements about other gay men in order to feel better about ourselves? And why does Fridae buy into all of this? Why is this team not "out" to all the other teams they play? Something to hide? Ashamed? The idea of a gay sports team is laudable, but let's ditch some of the self-hatred.

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