Rayo Vallecano: Rainbow shirts ‘show support for unsung heroes’

CNN  — 

Last week Facebook users rushed to tint their profile pictures with the rainbow emblem of Gay Pride – now a Spanish football club has gone one step further.

After the U.S Supreme Court passed a bill enabling same-sex marriages to take place across the country, socially-conscious top-flight team Rayo Vallecano put its own spin on putting the community at the heart of the club.

Madrid-based Rayo, which lives in the shadow of its illustrious city neighbors Real and Atletico, has launched a new away kit which is adorned with the rainbow – each color representing “unsung heroes in society.”

The club sent social media into meltdown Wednesday, with thousands lauding the idea and praising the club’s decision to incorporate the rainbow design as part of its “Soy rayista, soy solidario” campaign – meaning “Support Rayo, support solidarity.”

According to the Rayo website, each color on the new strip represents a different cause.

The red is for those suffering with cancer and their families; the orange for those with people with disabilities; yellow for those who never give up hope; green represents environmentalists; blue for those tackling child abuse; and purple for those combating violence against women.

When the colors are all put together it represents the rainbow – the symbol which is universally acknowledged as representing Gay Pride.

Rayo announced that $8 from each kit sold will be divided between seven different causes to tackle discrimination. It is part of a wider scheme in which €1 ($1.10) from every season ticket sold will go to various charities.

The club also introduced a third kit – silver with a pink sash, to raise awareness of breast cancer – which will only be used when Rayo visits Spanish champion Barcelona. Rayo will give $5 from each of these kits sold to a national cancer charity.

Its main playing strip will continue to be white with a red sash, and the new editions will be available to buy from July 15.

Rayo is well known for its outreach work within the local community. It has an annual budget of just $8.6 million – a total dwarfed by the $720 million that Real Madrid has at its disposal.

“Vallecas is proud to be a very special neighborhood in Madrid – it has 300,000 people and a working-class imprint,” Spanish journalist Carlos Forjanes told CNN.

“Rayo’s supporters are usually involved in left politics (the ultras section Bukaneros embrace extreme-left positions) and they show their solidarity throughout the season with charity events.”

In November 2005 the club helped an 85-year-old fan find a new home after she was evicted from her apartment.

Carmen Martinez Ayuso had lived there for half a century but couldn’t afford the rent after her son had used her home as collateral on a loan he was then unable to repay.

“The club were overwhelmed with the amount of support they received,” Paul Reidy, a British Rayo Vallecano fan living in Madrid, told CNN.

“The current board of directors finally realize that Rayo indeed is a different club and is identified with social issues over and above the game of football.

“The reaction has been by and large positive from the majority of fans. The main voice of dissent regarding the shirts comes from the Bukaneros. They feel that the new shirts are bandwagoneering from the board, and point out that they were forbidden from showing a banner denouncing domestic violence before a league game last season.”

Read: Football and homophobia – is campaign tied in knots?

Read: Gay soccer players want to come out

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