Jose Maria River encountered no problems at home when he came out as bi. But his experience on the soccer field was different.

River is the president of a new all-LGBTQ+ soccer team in Grenada, Spain, the Rinos Fútbol Club. The club was created so LGBTQ+ soccer fanatics would have a safe place to play.

“Rinos were born with the illusion, the strength and the enthusiasm to break the barriers and the clichés that surround the collective around football,” River said in an interview with Shangela (his answers have been translated). “This project was created as a safe space where every person, regardless of their condition, gender or race, feels free and integrated to be part of a sports club, specifically a football club.”

The team was conceived in 2020, when widespread lockdowns were causing many people to reevaluate their lives. A lifelong soccer player, River was thinking back to his unpleasant experiences playing on lower level teams.

Though River says he didn’t encounter overt homophobia, he still felt uncomfortable.

“I decided to abandon [soccer], it wasn’t good and I didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “I entered a very complicated period in my life, I had just abandoned my passion, and it cost me a lot.”

His teammates didn’t help matters.

“I saw complicit glances between [teammates], mocking, laughing,” he said. “It was always indirectly, but [it made me feel uncomfortable]. That’s why I made the decision to stop putting up with these actions from my [teammates].”

Though River first thought of creating the Rinos in 2020, the club didn’t start running until October 2023. He expects the team will start playing in June, just in time for Pride Month.

They want to compete in the LGBTQ+ EuroGames, which are being held later this year in Vienna. Five months ago, there were only five members. Now, that number has ballooned to 22.

The players are all LGBTQ+, and already acting like brothers.

“This picture says it all. The happiness of a dream that is already a reality,” he wrote on Instagram. “The official presentation of RINOS FOOTBALL CLUB. Granada’s first Gay football club. It represents the commitment of a group united for a cause: breaking barriers of lgtbiphobia in the most popular sport in our country.

“Enthusiasm and desire to aspire for greater heights is what palpates in this cohesive and successful group. I, @josemariariver9 as founder and creator of this dream couldn’t be more proud of this group of wonderful people.”

Across the world, LGBTQ+ sports teams are known for their camaraderie, and the Rinos are no different. They threw their first party in March at a popular gay spot in Grenada, and there’s another affair on tap for May.

Maybe we can snag an invite for next time? The party looks like it was a blast!

While Spain is one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly countries in Europe, there’s still homophobia in the country’s soccer culture. There are only six known out male pro soccer players in the world, none of whom are native Spaniards. Jakob Jankto, who played professionally in Spain, became the first player in the country to come out last February.

Last spring, Spanish player Alberto Lejárraga posted a photo of himself kissing another man when he was promoted to a high level, leading many to speculate about his orientation.

In a follow-up post, Lejárraga clarified he wasn’t coming out; but rather, kissing his best friend.

When asked about whether he thinks Spain’s male soccer leagues will become more inclusive, River says it depends on whether clubs make stamping out LGBTQ+ bias a priority, like racism.

“The clubs must have the courage to support the collective, and they must create awareness campaigns,” he said. “For example, parties have been sanctioned and stopped due to racism, but how many players have been maimed by the cry of maricón? Nothing has happened.”

River, and the Rhinos, are hoping to change that. It all starts when they take the field later this year.

Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated