Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

There have been many incidents where soccer fans from around the world have been forced to refrain from showing support for the LGBTQ2 community at the Men’s World Cup in Qatar.

A woman from Guelph, Ont., shared her experience living in Qatar with Global News on Thursday.

Helen Loftin was at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Wednesday afternoon to see Canada take on powerhouse Belgium in their first game of the tournament.

She told 640 Toronto radio host Greg Brady that she brought a Pride flag with her to the venue.

“I lasted a good five minutes without incident,” Loftin said. “But as soon as the team came out for warm-ups … I was really waving the flag and maybe I was a little too enthusiastic. Then the police showed up and took him away.”

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Loftin explained that police officers at the stadium told her she was not allowed to hold that flag.

“I told them, ‘This is my country’s flag and I’m proud of my country and I just want to show it to everybody,'” Lofton said. “They told me, ‘That’s not the flag of your country,’ they pointed to another flag and said, ‘That’s the flag of your country and you’re not allowed to fly it, and frankly, you’re disrespecting our country. ‘”

Loftin said she was then threatened with being kicked out of the stadium if she did not surrender the Pride flag, which she later did.

“I was a little excited, but I was glad to get the chance to show anyone that my Canada is inclusive.”

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Her confrontation with police in Qatar is one of many instances where officials in the host country have confronted symbols that reflect support for the LGBTQ2 community. An Australian football fan has reportedly been banned from a stadium after security found a Pride flag in his bag. Many players from European countries have also been threatened with disciplinary action by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, if they wear armbands supporting the LGBTQ2 community while on the soccer field.

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“There was so much negative press coverage of the tournament with human rights, worker deaths and LGBTQ issues,” Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer and sports equality advocate Carrie Serwetnyk, who is gay, told The Canadian Press. “The tournament still seems to be trying to find its joy.”

Despite not being allowed to carry the Pride flag, Loftin said it didn’t dampen her excitement to watch the men’s national soccer team in their first World Cup appearance since 1986.

“It was so loud, so much fun in that stadium,” Loftin said. “It was a wonderful experience for sure.”

Belgium won against Canada 1-0. Canada’s next game is Sunday against Croatia, and Loftin said she plans to go to that game.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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