Sweden to deport gay footballer after seizing him at Pride event

Sweden is to deport an openly gay footballer back to his native Liberia after a failed residency application.

Andrew Nagbe has been playing in the Swedish fourth tier. Picture: libfootball.com
Andrew Nagbe has been playing in the Swedish fourth tier. Picture: libfootball.com

The Nordic country is famed for its progressive gay rights and asylum policies, but Liberian player Andrew Nagbe is currently in a detention centre awaiting removal back to Liberia.

The 22-year-old player was arrested by migration officials at the Stockholm Pride festival at the end of July.

The festival is one of Europe’s biggest and features music, arts and political events to promote and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

National politicians regularly march in the annual Pride parade through Stockholm, including Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

Nagbe was taking part in the Pride events with his boyfriend the day he was detained by migration officials.

He had originally travelled to Sweden on trial with Swedish third-tier team Umeå FC before plying his trade at a string of lower league teams.

When he was arrested he was playing for Södertälje FK in the fourth tier, a town to the south of Stockholm where many immigrants have settled.

“I want to play football and live as an openly gay man in Sweden,” the midfielder told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter when interviewed in detention.

It is still illegal to be openly gay in Liberia, and Nagbe claims he will suffer abuse if he returns home.

“In prison I’ll be beaten and raped every day until I am released and leave the country again. Everyone I know in Liberia knows I am gay now, so they won’t hold back,” he added from detention.

Sweden is home to several openly gay footballers, and is often hailed as a model of tolerance in sport.

Anton Hysen, the son of former Liverpool defender Glenn, was hailed as a pioneer when he chose to come out and discuss his sexuality when playing in the Swedish domestic leagues in 2011.

The Swedish migration service maintain that Nagbe’s claims to be both gay and that he would have his safety compromised if he returns home are not verifiable.

Only by presenting new evidence will Nagbe be able to appeal the ruling.

Metin Rhawi, chief executive at Södertälje FK and a politician with the governing Social Democratic party has described the decision as “heartless.”

“Should someone scared for their life be deported so cold-heartedly?” he told local journalists.

Unless the club can engineer Nagbe’s release he will be removed to Liberia on August 23.