My EuroGames Story
7th August 2023
Frazer Robertson on EuroGames Bern 2023
I’m writing this a week after I travelled to Bern, Switzerland to compete with LEAP Sports Team Scotland, Floorball Team in the EuroGames 2023. I am still physically and mentally exhausted from the trip but can’t stop smiling and my o my what an experience.
I play floorball weekly with the Perth Parrots Floorball Club and seeing the announcement that this years EuroGames in Bern would feature floorball, our committee set about scoping for our possible participation as a floorball squad. Following lengthy considerations, costings, and team selection we committed to what would be six intense months of planning and preparation.
We formally announced our intention to compete on 25th January 2023 and mark Burns Night (a prominent Scottish Annual Calendar Celebration) which we felt was a fitting platform to highlight our participation as an LGBTIQ+ Scotland Floorball Squad.
Some six months later our team converged at Edinburgh Airport and travelled to Bern. After EuroGames Registration, we headed for the Games Village where we were able to kick back, grab a refreshment and take in the impressive city views. Adorned in Team Scotland kit we were easy to spot and many of the other competitors began to interact with our group, make introductions and wish each other well in the events in the coming days. A few of us were even interviewed by a TV crew from the national Swiss news channel with our very own Bill and Amanda making the news coverage that night. There was a wonderful vibe at the village, and it was one which followed us throughout the Games.
We then made for our digs, a small hostel in the very heart of the city and all scurried off to our respective rooms to shower and change for the EuroGames Opening Ceremony. Later that night we arrived in the city’s Federal Square and were met with a sea of queer competitors from 75 different countries. Someone must have been cutting onions, because I had an almost instant wave of immense pride that, here was little old me, representing my adopted city of Perth, my country of Scotland and most importantly the community I once feared accepting me and I now see as my wider family.
Following the formal speeches and entertainment on the main stage, one by one each country was announced alphabetically. In what felt like forever, Scotland was announced to a loud cheer from the crowd and we were off. My teammates were absolutely beaming from ear to ear and it was a real pleasure to see Jack take up the role of flag bearer which is of course recognised as a great honour. As we snaked through the capital from the plaza to the Games village, there was no doubt that Team Scotland had arrived, with O Flower of Scotland echoing down streets and up lanes.
Tournament day for floorball was on the Thursday and it was an early six thirty start for us with our first game scheduled to start at eight thirty. I woke, showered, and forced myself to eat and hydrate sensibly, aware that this would be a long and challenging day of competition. Its hard to articulate but I had a general sense of nervousness that I have never experienced before and was keen to get the venue and get started.
We opted to walk to the venue, and this helped stretch the legs and give us some fresh air before we started. On arrival at the venue itself, we were all left in awe as the school gymnasium which was subterranean and some three stories underground, was more akin to something from a James Bond movie than the old Cumbernauld High School sports hall I played in as a teenager.
We were one of the first teams to arrive for the event and quickly settled in one of the corners of the hall which I affectionately called “Scotch Corner” for the day. We decorated our space with a few Saltires and a Perth Parrots flag before commencing a warmup and getting down to business.
Throughout the day of the tournament I was able to engage with and make new connections with other LGBTIQ+ teams from across Europe. They were all extremely friendly and welcoming and we each exchanged details of our own clubs back home and celebrated how both floorball and our passion for diversity and inclusion can coexist in the world of sport. One highlight was being able to give the other teams members a club patch and pin badge from our home team the Perth Parrots and hear that our social media was being noticed across Europe.
What can I say about my teammates? I train with them week in and week out and they have become more of a family as opposed to simply individuals I play sports with. We support and care for each other and have created a special and much needed community in Perth. Sharing the games with them was a hugely meaningful experience and something which I will cherish for the rest of my life. These teammates, many of them who have only played floorball for around a year, really kicked it up a gear in the weeks and months leading up to the games and they have all grown in terms of game skill, knowledge and experience.
As the day progressed we really began to grow in confidence as a team and while I didn’t want to let myself believe it, there was a small part of me that hoped we could head back to Scotland with a medal. While I had come to Bern with hopes of a medal, this was tempered with the knowledge that we were a new and relatively inexperienced squad and that our first objective was always to head to the games to have fun, make new and lasting connections and remember that even attending and participating was a highlight. That said one can’t help but dream.
Our own Rhuaraidh had helped score the first goal of the tournament and ignited a fire in all of us. As we reached the end of the tournament matches, it was announced that we would face Norway in the Bronze Medal playoff match. I instantly felt emotional and the achievement of reaching this stage of the tournament was a huge first for us as a squad. Following some cool, calm, and collected words form our coach Bob, we took to the rink as underdogs given that Norway had won Gold in EuroGames 2021 and had more points/goals than us from that day’s tournament.
For me the next twelve minutes were a vivid mix of unadulterated adrenaline, passion and sheer determination as I watched our team come together as I have never seen them come together before. I went on to score two goals in the playoff and one of my absolute favourite moments was locking eyes with Atlas immediately after the second and seeing the sheer shock and surprise on his face as we both couldn’t quite believe it. One was great but two? We scored an impressive seven goals to Norway’s one and as the clock ticked down the realisation that we would win Bronze became more and more likely. As the final buzzer sounded, I felt something which I have felt only a few times in my life, pure unapologetic joy. Some of our team piled atop one and other, some stared in complete disbelief and a few cried like a baby! As my eyes streamed (bloody onions) my face hurt from grinning with complete disbelief. Some in the sporting world shun their silver and bronze medals, seeing it as a reminder that they did not win gold. For our team bronze meant the world and after a tough first season in the Scottish Floorball League was a much-needed boost.
Still in a slight daze from the tournament and rushing from the medal ceremony, both Joseph and I attended the British Ambassadors Residence to participate in an Athletes Reception and represent the collective interests of Team Scotland. I am not sure if it was the Pimms on the lawn or the pure joy of having won a medal that made me feel a little tipsy.
Following the reception, we both headed back to our digs and were met by our teammates who were still very much celebrating our medal success. We all opted to head out for a meal and enjoyed an alfresco meal in the warm summer air enjoying one and others company while recounting the days events. Our Team Captain Kirsty, stood and gave a short speech, toasting our team and collective hard work. Another highlight of the meal, was when one of the EuroGames evening social activities (namely a roller blading road disco) saw hundreds of skaters pass us, adorned in neon lights and ringing Swiss cow bells.
Friday saw our team be able to relax and enjoy the city. One activity which was amazing was wild water swimming in the river Aare. We headed for the Freibad Marzili (free outdoor Lido) which is a awesome outdoor area with ample space for picnics, outdoor swimming pools, diving boards and a cycle track which mirrors the river. We walked some distance up stream and jumped in, floating down to the holding pools and shouting like giddy toddlers, again again!
On Saturday we headed to the Wankdorf Stadium, home to the Young Boys Football Team and participated in Bern Pride 2023. We proudly marched behind the EGLSF flag together with hundreds of other athletes from across the world. There was a brilliant atmosphere and it was great to see the city adorned in rainbow flags and local residents hanging from balconies, waving and shouting words of support.
Our team return to Scotland with eleven bronze medals in Floorball secure in the knowledge that they gave their all. We have shared many wonderful experiences as a team and the trip will be something I will remember with great fondness for the rest of my life.
Our collective hope is that others are inspired by our participation in the games and whatever their sport, we have sparked something which encourages them to reach out to LEAP Sports Scotland and find out more. Next years EuroGames are in Vienna, Austria in the last week of July 2024. Hope to see you there!
Frazer Robertson is a long time LGBTIQ+ sports activist and former Board member of LEAP Sports. Frazer is currently President of Perth Parrots Floorball Club.