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

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Football fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusivity, have said they have been refused entry to World Cup stadiums and confronted members of the public to remove the emblem , despite assurances from FIFA, football’s governing body, as well as Qatari officials that visitors. are allowed to express their identity during the tournament.

In the days since the World Cup started on Sunday, stadium security and members of the public have asked American and Welsh fans to hide rainbow-themed items from public view, fans say, in official zones and on the subway. In some cases, fans said they were refused entry to games unless they removed rainbow-themed insignia, although others said they were able to take the rainbow symbol into the stadiums without a problem .

FIFA officials have for years tried to allay fears that LGBTQ fans who traveled to Qatar, a conservative Muslim state that punishes homosexuality with prison time, would not face discrimination. “Let me repeat it clearly: everyone will be welcome to the tournament, regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality,” said Gianni Infantino, FIFA president, a month before the tournament began , echoing promises made by other FIFA officials as well as the head of Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee.

The reported questioning of people wearing rainbow flags raised the possibility that official guidelines on allowing the symbol had not trickled down to the vast army of volunteers and workers who staff the tournament; or that Qatar, fearing a backlash from conservatives, has changed course and is cracking down.

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 was already facing criticism for stifling the LGBTQ symbol. On Monday, soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced their captains will not wear rainbow armbands in Qatar after FIFA said players wearing the bands would be punished. . On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized FIFA’s decision during a visit to Doha, calling it “worrying.”

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FIFA and Qatari officials did not immediately respond on Tuesday to a request to clarify what guidelines were in place for fans wishing to display the rainbow symbol in official tournament zones and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf state, where sex between men is illegal.

Former Welsh professional footballer, Laura McAllister tweet who was refused entry to a FIFA stadium by security 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 went through security, some of the security officers said we had to take off the hat. When I asked them why, they said ‘because it was a forbidden symbol and we weren’t allowed to wear it in the stadium,’” he said. “They insisted that unless I took the hat off, we weren’t actually allowed into the stadium.” She eventually managed 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 detained for half an hour in “unnecessary suffering” but eventually allowed into the stadium. “Go gays,” he said wrote on Twitter with a rainbow emoji, sharing an image of the shirt.

According to guidelines 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 repercussions. “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 Wednesday. “They won’t get into trouble for public displays of affection.”

At the time, FIFA clarified that its guidelines did not apply to areas outside 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 fellow subway passengers while also traveling to the Wales-USA game carrying a small rainbow flag, including two men wearing official FIFA volunteer uniforms. Five people asked him to remove the symbol from view during the entire 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.

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

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

Minutes later, Martin said, another passenger angrily asked him to remove the small emblem again, also becoming agitated and using his body to intimidate Martin when he refused. “He got in my physical space and I was pushed against the door of the train,” said Martin, adding that the person then followed him around the subway carriage while 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 his journey to ask him to remove the symbol, Martin added.

“I’m sad. “I’m afraid to bring my emblem to the game between the USA and England on Friday,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good,” he added, also stressing that the experience of feeling safe was not representative of his wider experiences of Qatar.

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The reports add to the current pressure on FIFA over its handling of LGBTQ rights and statements of support for the community during the tournament, where the rainbow has become a particularly difficult symbol.

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On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken directly criticized the body’s decision to punish World Cup soccer players with yellow cards if they wear rainbow-themed armbands to support diversity and inclusion – saying it gives athletes the world is in an impossible situation. Two yellow cards result in a player being expelled from the game.

The decision prompted seven European World Cup captains, namely England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, to drop “OneLove” armbands in solidarity with LGBTQ people.

“It is always worrying from my point of view when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression; it’s especially true when the expression is for diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at a joint news conference in the capital, Doha, alongside 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.

Kareem Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.

The World Cup in Qatar

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

USMNT: Returning to 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 will face a bigger task on Friday against Group B favorites England, who they demolished Iran, 6-2, earlier on Monday.

Qatar Debate: Football fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusion, have said they have been refused entry to World Cup stadiums and confronted members of the public for removing the emblem.

Group guide: The United States men’s national soccer team, led by Coach Gregg Berhalter and star forward Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement from its disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s a close look at how each one of the teams in each group accumulates.



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