Guelph woman nearly ejected from World Cup match after police find Pride flag

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I said to them, ‘This is my country’s flag and I’m proud of my country and I just want to show everybody,’” Lofton said. “They said to me, ‘That’s not your country’s flag,’ and pointed to another flag and said, ‘That’s your country’s flag and you’re not permitted to fly this, and frankly you are being disrespectful of our country in doing so.’”

Loftin said she was then threatened with ejection from the stadium if she did not hand over the Pride flag, which she later did.

“I was ticked a bit, but I was glad that I got the opportunity to show anybody 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 been cracking down on symbols that reflect support for the LGBTQ2 community. One Australian soccer fan was reportedly barred from entering a stadium after security found a Pride flag in his bag. Many players from European countries were also threatened with discipline by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, if they wore armbands supporting the LGBTQ2 community while on the soccer pitch.

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“There’s been so much negative attention to the tournament in the press with human rights, worker’s death and LGBTQ issues,” Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer and advocate for equal rights in sports Carrie Serwetnyk, who is a gay woman, told The Canadian Press. “It seems like the tournament is still trying to find its joy.”

Despite not being allowed to carry the Pride flag, Loftin said it didn’t dampen her excitement of watching 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 the match 1-0 over Canada. The next match for Canada is Sunday against Croatia and Loftin said she plans on attending that game too.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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