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 inclusivity, said they were denied entry to World Cup stadiums and confronted by members of the public to remove the emblem, despite assurances from FIFA, soccer’s governing body, as well as Qatari officials that visitors would be allowed to express their identity during the tournament.

In the days since the World Cup began on Sunday, stadium security and members of the public American and Welsh fans have asked to hide rainbow-themed items from the public, fans said, in official zones and on the subway. In some cases, fans said they were denied entry to matches unless they removed rainbow-themed emblems, although others reported being able to take the rainbow symbol into the stadiums without problems.

FIFA officials have tried for years to allay fears that LGBTQ fans who traveled to Qatar, a conservative Muslim state that punishes homosexuality with prison terms, would not be discriminated against. “Let me repeat this clearly: Everyone will be welcomed at the tournament, regardless of their origin, background, faith, gender, sexual orientation or nationality,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a month before the tournament began, in in line with the promises made by other FIFA officials as well as the head of Qatar’s World Cup Organizing Committee.

The reported questioning of people carrying rainbow flags raised the possibility that official guidance on allowing the symbol had not trickled down to the vast army of volunteers and employees staffing the tournament; or that Qatar, fearing a backlash from conservatives, had changed course and was about to strike.

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

FIFA has already faced criticism for stifling the LGBTQ symbol. Soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced Monday that their captains will not wear rainbow armbands in Qatar after FIFA said players playing the groups would be penalized. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken criticized FIFA’s decision during a visit to Doha on Tuesday, calling it “worrying”.

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

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

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“When we got through security, some of the security guards told us to take off the hat. When I asked them why, they said ‘because it is a forbidden symbol and we are not allowed to wear it in the stadium,’ ” she said. “They insisted that unless I took the hat off, we wouldn’t actually be allowed into the stadium.” She was finally able to get in by hiding the hat.

In a separate incident before the same game, American football writer Grant Wahl said he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a shirt with a rainbow on it. Wahl later said he was held for half an hour in an “unnecessary ordeal” but eventually allowed into the stadium. “Go gays,” he wrote on Twitter with a rainbow emoji, share an image of the shirt.

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

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

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

Martin, a journalism professor who lives in Qatar, said he does not identify as LGBTQ but wore the symbol as a show of support for marginalized groups when he was repeatedly asked by other passengers to remove it.

“I was standing on the train with the emblem in my hand and using my phone. I was approached by two young FIFA volunteers in maroon T-shirts that said ‘volunteer’ on the back and they encouraged me to put the flag away to respect local culture.” When he refused, Martin says one of the apparent volunteers became agitated and described him as “disgusting.”

Minutes later, Martin said, another passenger again angrily asked him to remove the small emblem. “He physically entered my space and I was pushed against the door of the train,” Martin said, adding that the person then followed him around the subway car while filming him.

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

Two other members of the public also approached Martin while he was traveling to ask him to remove the symbol, Martin added.

“I’m sad. I’m afraid to bring my emblem to the USA-England game 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 experiences of Qatar.

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The reports add to existing pressure on FIFA over its handling of LGBTQ rights and expressions of support for the community during the tournament, during which the rainbow has become a particularly fraught symbol.

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Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken on Tuesday directly criticized the body’s decision to yellow-card World Cup soccer players for wearing rainbow-themed armbands in support of diversity and inclusion – saying it put global athletes in an impossible position . Two yellow cards lead to a player’s suspension from the match.

The decision prompted seven European World Cup captains, those from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, to ditch “OneLove” bracelets showing solidarity with LGBTQ people.

“It is always worrying from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression; it is especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken said at a joint news conference in the capital, Doha, with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

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

Sands reports from London; Hudson of Doha, Qatar. Kareem Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.

World Cup in Qatar

Highlights: Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina to open a day that also included defending champions France rolling to victory and a pair of draws from Denmark-Tunisia and Mexico-Poland. Here are seven more matches in World Cup history when the minor beat the odds for a memorable and stunning upset.

USMNT: In their return to the World Cup, the young Americans were held to a 1-1 draw by Wales in their Group B opener. The US men’s national team will face a bigger task on Friday against Group B favorite England, who defeated Iran 6-2 earlier on Monday.

Qatar Controversy: Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusivity, said they were denied entry to World Cup stadiums and confronted by members of the public about removing the emblem.

Group Directory: The US men’s national soccer team, led by coach Gregg Berhalter and star forward Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, improving on its disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s a close look at how all the teams stack up in each group.


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