LGBT football festival kicks offForget the State of Origin – the real action will be on the playing fields when Flying Bats and the Rovers go head to head for the inaugural Julie Murray cup.

Think State of Origin with sequins, FIFA in feathers, some top-class football and a bunch of lion-hearted men and women committed to equality, respect and love of the world game.

In the tradition of great Australian rivalries, Pride Football Australia (PFA) brings together gay, lesbian and fabulous footballers from Sydney and Melbourne to fight it out for the Julie Murray (women’s) and Justin Fashanu (men’s) Cups.

Australia’s first-ever LGBT football contest, PFA will see the Sydney Rangers and Flying Bats go head to head with their rivals from the Melbourne Rovers for a shot at glory.

“As the oldest and largest lesbian club in Australia, if not the world, it’s fitting that we’re pioneering this cup and will be a founding club of the tournament as a whole,” says Alicia Rich, president of the Flying Bats – celebrating 30 years as a club in 2016.

“We hope to put a spotlight on homophobia and transphobia in sport, but also showcase the many health and social benefits of playing football.”

The Sydney Rangers have been playing the Rovers men every year since the first Justin Fashanu Cup in 2009 and are thrilled to take their rivalry to the next level. “We are proud to be a formation club of the Pride Football Australia tournament and look forward to a new era in gay and lesbian football in this country” says Sydney Rangers coach Joseph Roppolo.

Adds Melbourne Rovers president, Heath Wilson, “playing football for many of us is about so much more than the game; our clubs are about community and mateship, tolerance, love and respect, and this tournament is a celebration of everything we are proud to be.”

The tournament is supported by ACON, NSW’s leading community-based HIV and GLBT health organisation. ACON is also a community partner of the Rangers.

“Pride Football Australia is a great initiative,” says ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill, “and ACON is proud to be supporting an event that helps build the health and wellbeing of our community not just physically and socially, but also by highlighting how homophobia and transphobia can impact on the mental health of people from the GLBT community.”

Patron of the women’s cup, Julie Murray, has been at the forefront of most firsts in Australian women’s football and is honoured to be involved in another piece of history. “Whether it’s professional or local weekend football, you play because it brings something positive to your life; there is a sense of belonging, responsibility, and loyalty that comes with playing football,” says Murray. “Although there is still a long way to go I believe football has, and will continue to play a key role in breaking down barriers.