Members if Diversport during one of their sports activities. Anthony Piovesan
LGBT sports club's family touch wins over hearts

LGBT sports club's family touch wins over hearts

Diversport. ·

The Torremolinos non-profit association provides people of all nationalities with a place to make friends away from the town’s gay stereotypes

Anthony Piovesan

Friday, 26 May 2023, 13:41


Making friends in Torremolinos, known for its busy gay nightclub scene, isn’t easy but there is a group of people dedicated to creating another culture in the town, one that doesn’t put gay stereotypes at the heart of its focus.

Diversport, an LGBT non-profit association, was established in 2018 to welcome anybody to play sport and this year will celebrate just its sixth Pride week in Torremolinos, which will take place from Sunday, 28 May until 4 June.

But the group has become much more than a place to play tennis, padel, football or beach volleyball; it has become a beacon of hope for people who don’t identify with Torremolinos’s hedonism, and a second family for the growing number of foreigners choosing to call the town home.

"Torremolinos was such a lonely place to be," said Craig Smith, an Englishman who moved to the town in 2020, and who doesn’t conform to the muscled-up, buff body image some in the community like to worship.

"I had an issue with the hyper focus on parties, drugs, sex, muscles and I didn’t find many people like me in the sense of how alternative or effeminate I am and how I dress," he added.

Torremolinos has been an enclave of permissiveness since the 1960s. While the rest of Spain languished under the Franco dictatorship’s moral constraints with strict laws against homosexual activity, the country’s first gay bar opened in Torremolinos in 1962, Toni’s Bar, and the country’s first gay street, Pasaje Begoña, was full of people carousing until well past dawn on Sundays.

That all changed in the 1970s when a huge police crackdown forced establishments to close.

Torremolinos has regained its freedom and liberty, and the town again is dominated by bars that throng in La Nogalera.

But even though LGBT rights are no longer being infringed upon, people still feel marginalised, particularly those who don’t identify with the town’s party culture.

"The first things you see when you go to Torremolinos and Nogalera are drag shows, drinking, partying, late nights, beach clubs, big muscles," Smith told SUR in English.

"This is the part of the gay scene you see but you don’t see the people who don’t identify with this, the people who go home early or don’t go out," he said.

Smith ended up leaving Torremolinos as a result, and went to live in Malaga city, but just before that had joined Diversport to play padel.

When he started apartment shopping, there was nothing he liked in Malaga, and realised most of the options to his liking and within his budget were in the very place he had wanted to get away from.

"I ended up finding an apartment in Torremolinos, but this time it was different," Smith said.

"When I returned I realised the friendships I had made through Diversport made Torremolinos feel like a home.

"When I went out I would see people I knew from the group and they were friendly and accepting towards me and I felt like I had tapped into a culture within Torremolinos that is not the most visible," he said.

Diversport’s membership has grown to more than 200 people from over 30 different countries. It offers weekly opportunities to participate in tennis, padel, football, beach volleyball, petanca, and swimming sessions, as well as hiking.

Turkish-American Refik Agri joined the club in 2020 after participating in one of the weekly treks into the Malaga mountains, and said it immediately provided him with a way to meet people in a healthy environment.

"Most of the meetings here take place on a sexual basis, in bars and on apps, but Diversport is an alternative to that," he said.

"It makes you feel like you belong to something and allows you to make healthy connections, and as a foreigner away from home that is absolutely crucial."

Diversport vice-president Sara Pérez said the group’s main aim is to promote a healthy lifestyle among the LGBT community.

"Many of our members thank us for having created these spaces with no sexual pressure, where they don’t need to fake who they are or be worried about how they look," the 39-year-old said.

"It is getting more and more difficult to manage such a large growing group, but we can’t stop it and we won’t. Everyone, no matter who, is welcome at Diversport," Pérez said.

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