Soccer fans wearing rainbow flags confronted at Qatar’s World Cup 2022

Opinion

Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusivity, have been barred from entering World Cup stadiums and have faced off against the public to remove the logo, despite assurances by FIFA, soccer’s governing body and Qatari officials that visitors will be allowed to remain anonymous during the tournament.

On the days when the World Cup started on Sunday, the stadium security and members of the public American and Welsh fans have been asked to hide rainbow-themed items from public view, the fans said, in public areas and on the subway. In some cases, fans reported being denied entry to matches unless they removed rainbow-themed logos, although others reported being able to take the rainbow logo into stadiums without issue.

FIFA officials have spent years trying to dispel fears that LGBTQ fans traveling to Qatar, a conservative country that punishes homosexuality with prison terms, will face discrimination. “Let me repeat it clearly: everyone is welcome to the tournament, regardless of origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a month before the tournament. Other FIFA officials as well as the head of the Qatar World Cup Organizing Committee.

The demands of rainbow flag wearers suggest that official guidance on allowing the symbol has not been communicated to the vast army of volunteers and staff who run the race. Or maybe Qatar is changing course and taking action out of fear of a backlash from conservatives.

But last week, FIFA announced the change when Qatar reversed an earlier decision to ban the sale of beer outside World Cup stadiums. There were no such statements from FIFA or Qatar on Tuesday about the rainbow flag.

FIFA has faced criticism for suppressing the LGBTQ symbol. On Monday, soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced that their captains would be fined for playing FIFA bands that do not wear rainbow armbands in Qatar. On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken criticized FIFA’s decision during a visit to Doha as “reckless”.

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Neither FIFA nor Qatari officials immediately responded to a request on Tuesday to clarify what the guidelines were for fans who want to display the rainbow symbol in official competition zones and in the Persian Gulf state where sex between men is illegal.

Former Welsh professional footballer Laura McAllister He tweeted. She was denied entry to the FIFA stadium by security officials because she was wearing a rainbow-themed fan hat. According to an interview with ITV News, McAllister said she was told by authorities that the rainbow symbol was banned.

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“When we got through security, some security guards said we have to take off the hat. When I asked them why, they said, ‘Because it’s a prohibited symbol and we’re forbidden to wear it in the stadium.'”

Separately, before the same match, American football writer Grant Wahl claimed he was stopped by a goalkeeper for wearing a rainbow shirt. Wahl later said he was detained for half an hour in “unnecessary suffering” but was eventually allowed into the stadium. “Go away, gays,” he said. He wrote on Twitter Sharing a picture of the shirt, with a rainbow emoji.

According to guidelines issued by FIFA last week, soccer fans have been told to identify themselves in official match zones without risking harm. “There is no danger; they are welcome to express themselves; they are welcome to express their love for their partners,” FIFA’s head of fan experience Gerdin Lindhout told ITV News on Wednesday. “They will not get in trouble for public displays of affection.”

At the time, FIFA made it clear that the guidelines did not apply to areas outside official competition zones.

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On Monday, soccer fan Justin Martin said he was confronted several times by fellow subway passengers on his way to the Wales-US match, including two men in official FIFA volunteer uniforms carrying a small rainbow flag. Five people have asked him to remove the flag from public view on the subway, Justin Martin told The Washington Post in a phone interview, adding that one passenger was upset when he refused to hide the flag.

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According to Martin, a professor of journalism who lives in Qatar, although he is not identified as LGBTQ, he carries the symbol as a show of support for marginalized groups when he is repeatedly asked by other passengers to remove it.

“I was standing on a train with the logo in my hand and using my phone. Two young FIFA volunteers came up with T-shirts that said ‘Volunteers’ on the back and encouraged me to put the flag up.” When he refused, Martin said, one of the volunteers became very angry and described it as “disgusting.”

Minutes later, Martin said, another passenger again angrily demanded that he remove the small logo, and became angry and used his body to threaten Martin when he refused. “He physically walked into my position and I was pushed out of the train door,” Martin said, adding that the man was filming him and following him around the subway car.

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A football fan who witnessed the exchange confirmed Martin’s account of the altercation to the Post in a separate interview.

Two other members of the public approached Martin during the trip to ask him to remove the sign, Martin added.

“I’m sad. I’m afraid to bring my logo to the US-England game on Friday,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good,” he added, stressing that his experience of feeling unsafe was not representative of his broader experiences in Qatar.

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The reports will put pressure on FIFA’s handling of LGBTQ rights and statements of support for the community during the tournament; The rainbow has become an especially abundant symbol during this season.

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On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken directly criticized the body’s decision to punish World Cup footballers with rainbow yellow cards for promoting diversity and inclusion – which he said put the world’s athletes in an impossible position. Two yellow cards cause a player to be ejected from the game.

The decision prompted seven European World Cup captains, from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, to take the jetty with “OneLove” armbands to show their solidarity with LGBTQ people.

“When we see restrictions on freedom of expression, it’s always a concern in my view. Especially if the expression is one of diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in the capital, Doha.

“No one on the football field should be forced to choose between upholding these values ​​and playing for their team,” Blinken said.

Kareem Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.

World Cup in Qatar

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USMNT: The Americans returned to the World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Wales in Group B. The United States Men’s National Team has a big task ahead of favorites England on Friday after beating Iran 6-2 last Monday.

Qatar Controversy: Football fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusivity, were denied entry to World Cup stadiums to remove the logo, saying they were confronted by the community.

Group Guidelines: The United States Men’s National Soccer Team, led by coach Greg Berhelter and star forward Christian Pulisic, has qualified for the 2022 World Cup. Take a closer look at how all the teams in each group stack up.



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