BOZEMAN, Mont. — As soon as the Americans scored their first goal at the World Cup in Qatar, the crowd roared, with cameras catching all the excitement.
One lens captured a man celebrating in the stands holding up Montana’s state flag.
He turned out to be Max Croes of Helena, celebrating team USA’s first world cup goal in eight years.
As a fan, Croes says this type of moment is priceless.
“The best moment about that was I got my reaction captured and shared with millions of people, and it was pure unadulterated joy,” said Croes. “The type of thing I think every sports fan wishes could happen to them at some point. Your celebration is captured.”
As the founder of Helena’s branch of the American Outlaws, Croes later became a capo, leading USA cheers from the crowd.
Croes is soaking up every moment of the tournament -- an event embroiled with controversy over LGBTQ rights.
According to the Associated Press, rainbow imagery is frowned upon in Qatar, where same-sex relations are criminalized.
The AP reports that Qatari authorities offered assurances they’d allow LGBTQ symbols at World Cup stadiums, but stadium security is being handled by a local committee, leading to confusion about rainbow symbols in some cases.
Croes decided to show support to the LGBTQ community by wearing a custom-made No. 41 pride colored USA soccer jersey to the event.
“It is just a small way I tried to make a statement,” Croes said. “I know that it is not the biggest thing that has ever happened, but I felt it was important that I was coming over here. My goal is, of course, to support the team, but also I wanted to have my own word said, even if I wasn’t speaking.
Among other Americans in the stands, Croes didn’t run into any trouble wearing his jersey. In fact, he felt supported.
“I believe there have been a lot of things said recently about European teams wanting to wear arm bands that have rainbows on them that have been big points of conversation internationally, so I think that most teams, players and fans want to be accepting and inclusive.”
Croes is looking forward to the U.S. team’s upcoming match against England.
He says if you’re looking to become a fan of USA soccer, it’s one you’ll want to watch.
“This is the second youngest team in the tournament,” said Croes. “If you watch these games, you’ll be watching these same players for hopefully the next 10 years. So this is the ground floor of getting in on something good. If you’ve never watched a game before and want to make tomorrow your first one, it is going to be a great introduction of what should be a fun 10 years.”
The United States takes on England Friday at 12 p.m. MST.
Croes encourages any soccer fans around the state to join his branch in Helena of the American Outlaws. Or if you are interested in starting your own branch, he also encourages you to get in touch. Click here to learn more.