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

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Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusion, have said they have been denied entry to World Cup stadiums and have been confronted by members of the public about removing the emblem, despite assurances from FIFA, soccer’s governing body, as well as Qatari officials that visitors. You will be able to express your identity during the tournament.

Days since the start of the World Cup on Sunday, stadium security and the public have asked American and Welsh fans to hide rainbow-themed items from public view, fans said, in official areas and on the subway. In some cases, fans said they were denied entry to games unless they removed their rainbow-themed badges, although others reported they could bring the rainbow symbol into stadiums without any problems.

FIFA officials have tried for years to allay concerns that LGBTQ fans who traveled to Qatar, a conservative Muslim country that punishes homosexuality with prison terms, would face discrimination. “Let me repeat this clearly: the tournament will welcome everyone, regardless of their origin, origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a month before the tournament began, repeating the pledge. other FIFA officials as well as the head of the Qatar World Cup Organizing Committee.

It was reported that questioning people wearing rainbow flags raised the possibility that official instructions to allow the symbol had not reached the vast army of volunteers and staff working at the tournament; or Qatar, fearing a backlash from conservatives, has reversed course and turned against it.

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

FIFA has already faced criticism for suppressing the LGBTQ symbol. The soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced on Monday that their captains will not wear rainbow armbands in Qatar after FIFA announced that players who sport the stripes would be fined. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized FIFA’s decision during a visit to Doha, calling it “addictive”.

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Neither FIFA nor Qatari officials immediately responded to a request on Tuesday to clarify what guidelines apply to fans who want to display the rainbow symbol, both in official tournament areas and elsewhere in the Gulf state, where sex between men is illegal.

Former Welsh professional footballer Laura McAllister tweeted that she was refused entry to the FIFA stadium by security officials on Monday because she was wearing a rainbow-themed fan hat. McAllister said officials told her the rainbow symbol was banned, according to an interview with ITV News.

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“When we got through security, some guards said we had to take off our hats. When I asked them why, they said “because it was a banned symbol and we weren’t allowed to wear it in the stadium,” she said. “They insisted that unless I took my hat off we were not allowed to enter the stadium.” She was finally able to get in by hiding her hat.

In a separate incident before the same match, American soccer writer Grant Wahl said he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a rainbow shirt. Wahl later said he was detained for half an hour in an “unnecessary ordeal” but eventually allowed into the stadium. “Be gay,” he wrote on Twitter with a rainbow emoji when sharing a picture of the shirt.

According to instructions issued by FIFA as recently as last week, football fans have been informed that they are free to express their identity in official tournament areas without any repercussions. “There is no risk; they are welcome to speak; they are welcome to express their love to their partners,” FIFA’s head of fan experience, Gerdine Lindhout, told ITV News on Wednesday. “They won’t get in trouble for public displays of affection.”

At the time, FIFA clarified that its guidance did not apply to areas outside the official tournament zones, where the rules are less clear.

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On Monday, soccer fan Justin Martin said he was confronted several times by other subway passengers as he also traveled to the Wales-USA match with a small rainbow flag, including two men wearing official FIFA volunteer uniforms. Five people asked him to remove the symbol from view during the subway ride, Justin Martin told The Washington Post in a telephone interview, and one passenger became physically agitated when he refused to hide the flag.

Martin, a Qatar-based journalism professor, said he does not identify as LGBTQ but wore the symbol to show support for marginalized groups after other passengers repeatedly asked him to remove it.

“I was standing on the train with the badge in my hand and I was using my phone. I was accosted by two young FIFA volunteers in maroon t-shirts with ‘volunteer’ written on the back and encouraged me to put down the flag to respect the local culture. When he refused, Martin says one of the supposed volunteers became agitated and described him as “disgusting.”

Minutes later, Martin said, another passenger again angrily asked him to remove the small badge, becoming agitated and using his body to intimidate Martin when he refused. “He physically entered my space and I was pinned against the door of the train,” Martin said, adding that the person then followed him around the subway car, filming him.

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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 also approached Martin while he was on the road to ask him to remove the symbol, Martin added.

“I’m sad. I’m afraid to bring my badge to the USA-England match on Friday,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good,” he added, also stressing that the experience of feeling unsafe was not representative of his wider experience in Qatar.

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The reports increase pressure on FIFA over its handling of LGBTQ rights and support for the community during a tournament in which the rainbow has become a particularly harsh symbol.

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On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken directly criticized the body’s decision to yellow-card World Cup footballers for wearing rainbow-themed armbands to support diversity and inclusion, saying it put the world’s athletes in an impossible position. Two yellow cards mean the player is sent off.

The decision prompted seven European World Cup captains from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark to ditch the “OneLove” armband as a show of solidarity with LGBTQ people.

“In my view, it is always worrying when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression; it is especially so when the expression is about diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at a joint press conference in the capital Doha alongside Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

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

Sands reported from London; Hudson from Doha, Qatar. Karim Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.

World Cup in Qatar

Featured: Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina to open a day that also included a win for champions France and draws from Denmark, Tunisia and Mexico and Poland. Here are seven more matches in World Cup history where the underdog beat the odds for a memorable and stunning upset.

USMNT: Back at the World Cup, the young Americans settled for a 1-1 draw against Wales in their Group B opener. The US men’s national team faces a tall task on Friday against Group B favorite England, who defeated Iran 6-2 on Monday.

Qatar dispute: Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusion, have said they were denied entry to World Cup stadiums and there was a public backlash against removing the emblem.

Group guide: The U.S. men’s soccer team, led by coach Greg Berhalter and forward Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement over a disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Below is an exact breakdown of how all the teams in each group stand.


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