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Creating Space: How Left Wing Xícago Opens The Beautiful Game To Everyone

We talk to a local organization that takes community soccer seriously

We’re passionate about Chicago Soccer. For the most part, that means writing about the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars. Yet we’re fully aware that that doesn’t provide a complete picture of what soccer in this beautiful city looks like. There’s semi-pro and amateur teams. There’s adult rec league and youth soccer and futsal and kids playing in the alley behind their house. Soccer is a game played by everyone and for everyone.

One local group takes that remit seriously. Left Wing Football - Xícago is a local group committed to giving everyone the opportunity to experience the Beautiful Game to everybody, regardless of background or gender identity or skill level. At a time when walls are being built and marginalized folks are being told they’re not welcome, LWF’s commitment to creating and holding space for everyone who wants to play feels more urgent than ever.

We sat down with Alex and Mey from LFW to talk about the work they do and a major event they’re hosting this weekend.

Hot Time In Old Town: Tell me about Left Wing Futbol’s mission.

Left Wing Football: Our mission is to create a space where folks that typically do not have access to soccer can play within a community of broad Leftist values.

HTIOT: What inspired you all to start this group? What kind of community needs did you identify that weren’t being met?

LFW: Left Wing Xicago is actually an offshoot of a Leftist soccer group from the Bay Area. Anti-war activists got together to play soccer as a way to stay in decent shape to be able to get away from cops at anti-war demonstrations. A couple of years back some people brought the Left Wing style of play to Chicago and it has definitely found a home here. Accessibility and intersectionality are values we try to bring to every game. We try to structure our games so they’re competitive but not aggressive, and are especially wary of how toxic masculinity often bleeds into sports. We’re not perfect of course, and we often struggle with balancing a fun game with upholding our values, but it’s a struggle we undertake together. Personally as a femme-presenting person I’ve often felt ostracized in soccer spaces for not being good enough to play, and Left Wing has been so refreshing and liberating. I feel comfortable working on my game and playing at my skill level.

HTIOT: How long have you been doing this?

LFW: The Bay Area group started around 2005. Left Wing Xicago has been running for about 4 years here.

HTIOT: Radical Inclusion seems to be a core value for LFW, with folks of all genders and backgrounds welcomed. How do you put those values to work through LFW?

LFW: It absolutely is, and we want to do more to extend the beautiful game to all. We welcome kids at our meet-ups, and try to play at a pace that accommodates all skill levels. We also hold regular Women, Trans, Gender Non-Conforming games because we know that it is difficult for folks with these identities to find spaces where they can play comfortably.

HTIOT: Talk to me about your upcoming Copa Comunidad event.

LFW: Copa Comunidad is a weekend-long gathering of the Left Wing chapters, currently six cities in total, that takes place twice a year. Players from the cities are connected in organic ways— members moved to cities and brought LWF there— and friendships are also formed at Copas. The weekend consists of soccer, meals, parties, and discussions. This year will feature a discussion and workshop on community accountability and what that means to us, as well as a labor history tour.

HTIOT: What does growth and success look like for LFW? Where do you see the organization in five years?

We are an informal organization and are committed to being grass-roots— our task is to organize these spaces where everyone can play. Success is when we consistently have big turn-outs on Sundays, and people feel comfortable playing with us and learning our style of play. Success would also mean especially big turn-outs for our WTGNC games, both from people who identify as WTGNC and for our cis-men allies who are welcomed to show up, cheerlead, and have a discussion about why these spaces are necessary. Growth for us would be to include more and more members throughout the city, and maybe even a kids camp one day!

HTIOT: If people want to get involved with LFW or come out to Copa Comunidad, what should they do?

LFW: They can register here and join our Facebook page.