Around the Grounds | Aberdeen Taexali
They may be one of the country’s newest clubs, but they are almost certainly the only direct link between Scottish rugby and ancient Greek philosophy.
Named after Ptolemy’s name for the people of ancient Scotland, Aberdeen Taexali are the latest addition to the Scottish LGBT+ inclusive rugby community.
“It came about through a conversation I had with a friend – he plays for Leeds Hunters, and he asked if there would be interest in Aberdeen,” explained Bryan Sinclair, the club’s chairman.
“I put out a few feelers on Facebook, got some pretty decent interest and from there we set up our first training session.”
Fast forward a year, and the Taexali – open to straight players in addition to members of the LGBT+ community – are thriving in the north-east.
“Over the last year we’ve grown steadily – we’re regularly getting about 20 or so coming along to training,” said Sinclair.
“We have two sessions per week and players dip in and out based on other commitments. It’s a great mix of people and it’s going really well.
“There isn’t much of an LGBT+ scene in Aberdeen – there’s definitely a community, but not much diversity in terms of things to do. Rugby provides the obvious physical benefits, but also is a great one in terms of maintaining a good state of mental health. We wanted to set something up for people to come along to regardless of their sexuality, and even learn a new sport in a lot of cases.”
Having firmly established themselves in their inaugural year, the next step for the Taexali is the one that will take them out onto the pitch. A friendly against the Glasgow Alphas will mark the club’s first-ever fixture, with Sinclair excited at the prospect of starting 2020 in historic fashion.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the Alphas since setting up, so we’re really looking forward to playing them,” he admitted.
“We’ll probably go hell for leather on the pitch though! Everyone has been really supportive of us – the community in Scotland has been really helpful in terms of helping us get set up, and going forward there’s talk of setting up mini-tournaments between the Scottish teams. There’s massive support for anyone out there looking to do something like this.”
With the Edinburgh-based Caledonian Thebans bidding for the 2022 Bingham Cup – named after Stuart Bingham, one of the passengers who thwarted the hijacking of UA93 on 9/11 – and the Glasgow Alphas and Dunfermline Knights also making waves in their communities, it’s clear that LGBT+ inclusive clubs are enjoying a spike in popularity in recent months. Across the UK, 23 teams are currently affiliated with International Gay Rugby UK, with the Taexali’s sights set on joining the nation-wide league in the near future.
“We’re hoping to continue to grow in terms of numbers, and we’re aiming to join the IGR league in 2020/21,” admitted Sinclair.
“Between now and next summer, we’re hoping to set up a few friendlies and then look to get involved with the northern conference of the IGR league.”
For Sinclair and the Taexali, though, enjoyment of the sport itself remains front and centre.
“Most of the guys who have never played possibly surprised themselves with how much they enjoy the sport!” he laughed.
“Other guys who have played before and then taken a bit of a break have come back in and picked it up really quickly, so it’s been a really positive experience all round.
“It’s such a friendly, welcoming environment. People instantly feel included and it’s a completely judgment-free space – background and experience don’t matter at all.
“It’s about having some fun and if we win some matches along the way, even better.”