Grant Wahl was suddenly stopped by security as he entered the World Cup stadium in Qatar on Monday night. A guard showed her a rainbow shirt she was wearing in support of the LGBTQ community and told her to take it off because it was “political”.
When Wahl, a freelance journalist from the US who covers soccer, refused, another guard said, “You can make it easy. Take your shirt off,” according to a description of the incident posted in Wahl’s newsletter.
This incident goes against the promises made to fans and participants by FIFA and the event’s co-organisers, the Supreme Committee, that the World Cup will be inclusive of the LGBTQ community. FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters on Saturday that “everyone is welcome” after he spoke to the country’s top leadership about the issue “not once, but several times”.
Before the games, a FIFA representative told ITV News that fans would be able to express their identity as they wished and “will not cause problems for public displays of affection”, while advising travelers to respect the host’s local culture. Nation. FIFA’s kit regulations state that no clothing or equipment deemed “dangerous, offensive or indecent” or containing “political, religious or personal slogans” can be worn.
Read more: This is the Reality of Life for LGBTQ+ People in Qatar
But Wahl’s incident has turned another example of LGBTQ rights into a flashpoint for the 2022 World Cup. Tensions continue to flare in Qatar, where homosexuality is criminalized and punishable by jail over attempts to ban a universal symbol of LGBTQ rights, and several people wearing rainbow-embellished clothing have been barred from stadiums.
Among them is Laura McAllister, a former footballer from Wales. He told ITV that he was banned from the match as a fan because he was wearing a rainbow hat. And Justin Martin, associate professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, he said He was verbally abused by Arabic-speaking fans for carrying a rainbow no bigger than his hand on the subway.
In another example, Los Angeles Times reporter Kevin Baxter he tweeted The US men’s national team was not allowed to wear a rainbow mask on the practice field in Qatar before practice. Instead, he was offered a standard blue mask, which he refused to wear, preferring to go without. After he tweeted about the incident, a representative of the Supreme Committee called him to ask about his safety and said he was sure they would investigate the incident.
The Dutch soccer team created a campaign called OneLove, symbolized by a rainbow armband, to promote inclusivity. 10 European teams originally signed up to it in September, but by the time matches began on Monday, the captains of seven European teams had abandoned plans to wear the armbands after FIFA threatened them with “sporting sanctions”.
“We were willing to pay the fines that would normally apply to breaking kit rules and we had a strong commitment to wearing armbands. However, we cannot put our players in a situation where they can be punished or even forced to leave the field of play,” said the joint statement of the football associations.
FIFA also asked Belgium to remove the word “love” from the collar of their jerseys two days before their Group F match against Canada, ESPN reported. “It’s sad,” Belgian Football Association CEO Peter Bossaert told reporters on Monday, “but FIFA doesn’t give us any other choice.”
England’s Harry Kane wears the new FIFA-approved armband that reads ‘No Discrimination’ during the World Cup match between England and Iran on November 21, 2022.
David S. Bustamante-Socrates/Getty Images
In a separate statement on Monday, FIFA said it was launching an “Against Discrimination” campaign that would allow all 32 national captains to wear armbands throughout the tournament. “FIFA is an inclusive organization that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but this must be done within the framework of the competition’s rules, which are known to all,” the statement said.
Read more: Thousands of migrant workers died in extreme heat in Qatar. The World Cup forced a reckoning
Tolerance of LGBTQ symbols remains low in Qatar. Last year, authorities censored same-sex kisses in the children’s film Lightyear. was captured Rainbow colored children’s toys that are ‘against Islamic values’. Although Human Rights Watch disputed some of the government’s accusations, it detailed the experiences of six people who were harassed, detained and beaten by Qatari security forces in September. Some immigrant communities from European countries, the United States, and Australia reported that same-sex couples discreetly met and cohabited.
Implementation may also be different. According to a recent US State Department report, Qatari law calls for up to seven years in prison for “sodomy” or “inducing or seducing a man or woman in any illegal or immoral manner.”
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken criticized FIFA’s decision to impose “sporting sanctions” on players who wear rainbow armbands. “From my point of view, we are always concerned when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression; This is especially so when the expression is for diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at a press conference in Doha with Qatar’s foreign minister.
Although American soccer journalist Wahl was eventually allowed into the stadium and apologized to by a FIFA official, he said on Twitter that the incident was an “unnecessary ordeal”. Posting a rainbow emoji, he tweeted: “Gay gays.”
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