In the days since the World Cup began on Sunday, stadium security and the public have been involved American and Welsh fans were asked to hide the rainbow-themed items from public view, fans told official Zone and Metro. In some cases, fans refused to attend games unless the rainbow symbol was removed, while others said they could carry the rainbow symbol into the stadium without any problems.
FIFA officials have for years tried to allay fears that LGBTQ fans traveling to Qatar, a conservative Muslim country that punishes homosexuality with prison terms, would face discrimination. “Let me repeat this clearly: Everyone is invited to the tournament, regardless of origin, origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a month before the tournament. repeated. Other FIFA officials, as well as the chairman of the Qatar World Cup Organizing Committee.
The questioning of people wearing the rainbow flag raised the possibility that official instructions to allow the symbol had not gone down to the vast army of volunteers and staff organizing the competition; or Qatar, fearing a backlash from conservatives, is changing tack and fighting hard.
But FIFA issued a statement announcing the change last week after Qatar reversed an earlier decision to ban the sale of beer outside World Cup stadiums. No such announcement was made on Tuesday by FIFA or Qatar about the rainbow flag.
FIFA has already faced criticism for stifling LGBTQ symbols. On Monday, the seven European soccer teams representing the World Cup announced that their captains would not wear rainbow armbands in Qatar after FIFA announced that players who played for the group would be punished. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized FIFA’s decision during a visit to Doha, saying it was “relevant”.
FIFA and Qatari officials did not immediately respond to requests for clarification on Tuesday about their instructions to fans who want to display the rainbow symbol in the competition area or in the Gulf state, which bans sex between men.
Former Welsh professional footballer Laura McAllister tweeted He was barred from entering the FIFA stadium by security on Monday because he was wearing a rainbow supporters’ hat. McAllister told ITV News he was told by officials that the rainbow symbol was banned.
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“When we got on defense, some of the guards said they had to take off their helmets. When I asked them why, they said, ‘It was a forbidden symbol, so we weren’t allowed to wear it in the stadium,'” he said. “They were adamant that they wouldn’t let us into the stadium unless I took my hat off.” .
American football writer Grant Wahl said he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a rainbow shirt in another incident before the same game. Val later said he was detained for half an hour for an “unnecessary ordeal” but eventually allowed into the stadium. “Go away you gays,” he said tweeted Sharing a picture of a shirt with a rainbow emoji.
According to guidelines shared by FIFA last week, football fans are encouraged to express their identity freely within official competition areas without repercussions. “There is no risk; they feel comfortable expressing themselves; They are happy to show their love to their partners,” Gerdin Lindhout, FIFA’s head of fan relations, told ITV News on Wednesday. “They won’t go to any trouble to show their love in public.”
At the time, FIFA clarified that the guidelines did not apply to areas where the rules were unclear outside the official competition area.
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On Monday, soccer fan Justin Martin said he was repeatedly confronted by subway passengers as he walked to the Wales-USA game with a small rainbow flag, including two men dressed as official FIFA volunteers. Justin Martin told The Washington Post in a phone interview that during a subway ride, five people asked him to remove the symbol, and one passenger became agitated after refusing to hide the flag.
Martin, a Qatar-based journalism professor who does not identify as LGBTQ, said he was carrying it as a show of support for marginalized groups when other passengers repeatedly demanded it be removed.
“I was standing on the train with a symbol in my hand and using my phone. Two young FIFA volunteers, wearing brown t-shirts with the words ‘volunteer’ on the back, approached me and asked me to hang the flag out of respect for their local culture.” After he refused, Martin said one of the volunteers became upset and called him “disgusting. defined.
Minutes later, Martin said, another passenger again angrily asked him to remove the small symbol, and when he refused, he also became angry and physically threatened Martin. “He physically entered my space and I was pushed into the train door,” Martin said, adding that the man followed him around the subway car during filming.
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A football fan who witnessed the exchange confirmed to The Post that Martin was talking about the altercation.
Martin added that two other members of the public approached Martin while he was on the tour and asked him to remove the symbol.
“I’m sad. I’m afraid I’ll bring the badge to the USA-England game on Friday,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good,” he added, stressing that the lack of safety was unrelated to his extensive experience with Qatar. noted.
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The report underscores growing pressure on FIFA to address LGBTQ rights and public support for the tournament, where the rainbow is a prominent symbol.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken directly criticized the World Cup’s decision to yellow-card footballers for wearing rainbow armbands in an effort to promote diversity and inclusion, saying it had put the world’s athletes in a difficult position. If two yellow cards are received, the player will be removed from the game.
The decision prompted seven European World Cup captains, including England, Wales, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, to drop the ‘OneLove’ strip in solidarity with LGBTQ people.
“From my point of view, there is always some kind of restriction on freedom of expression; This is especially so when it is an expression of diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at a joint press conference in the capital Doha with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
“No one on the football field should be forced to choose between upholding these values and playing for their team,” Blinken said.
Els reported from London; Hudson from Doha, Qatar. Karim Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.
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