In the heart of Brussels, a unique sports team is changing the game. Merlijn De Rijcke, Florian Serneels, and Jérôme Soares de Albergaria are at the forefront of this change, leading the Zinneke Sticks, Belgium’s pioneering LGBTQIA+ hockey team.
The Genesis of Zinneke Sticks
Inspired by his experiences with LGBTQIA+ teams in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Merlijn envisioned a similar team in Belgium. This dream took shape in March 2023, with Clément and other passionate individuals turning this vision into reality. Jérôme, an experienced player, joined the management team, drawn by the team’s inclusive ethos. Florian, a recent addition, found a strong connection with both the team and the sport, marking a new chapter in his sporting journey.
A Year of Milestones
Despite being a young team, Zinneke Sticks has already made significant strides. “The social aspect and the friendships formed have been phenomenal,” Merlijn reflects. Jérôme adds, discussing his past hesitations and the positive shift in his experience with the team. Florian echoes these sentiments, emphasizing the welcoming and inclusive nature of the team.
Embracing Diversity and Skill
The team’s composition is a testament to its inclusive philosophy. From beginners like Florian to more seasoned players, the Zinneke Sticks nurture a dynamic environment where everyone learns and grows together. “There’s no judgment here. Everyone is welcome,” Merlijn asserts, highlighting the team’s commitment to diversity.
The team’s reach extends beyond Belgium. With connections across Europe and affiliations with global organizations like Pink Hockey International, the Zinneke Sticks are part of a larger movement promoting inclusivity in sports. Their engagement with the Belgian Hockey Federation further amplifies this mission, aiming to create a more inclusive sporting environment nationally.
Inclusivity in Action
Florian and Jérôme discuss the team’s efforts in fostering an inclusive atmosphere, from internal communications to participating in workshops on diversity in sports. These initiatives underline the team’s dedication to being a beacon of inclusivity in Brussels and beyond.
The Zinneke Sticks have ambitious goals. Team-building, fundraising, and equipment acquisition are immediate priorities. Their ultimate aspiration? To make inclusive environments the norm in sports, where LGBTQIA+ clubs are not exceptions but part of the mainstream. And, Since September 2023, they are part of Brussels Gay Sports!
The Zinneke Sticks invite everyone to follow their journey and contribute to creating a more inclusive sports world. Connect with them on Instagram at www.instagram.com/zinnekesticks/ and be part of their inspiring story.
Photos : Instagram @zinnekesticks
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