In the days since the World Cup began on Sunday, stadium security and members of the public On public areas and on the subway, American and Welsh fans have asked for rainbow-themed items to be hidden from public view, fans said. In some cases, fans said they were refused entry to matches unless they removed the rainbow symbols, although others said they were able to carry the rainbow symbol into the stadium without issue. were
FIFA officials have tried for years to allay fears that LGBTQ fans who travel to Qatar, a conservative Muslim state that punishes homosexuality with prison terms, will not face discrimination. . “I repeat this clearly: everyone will be welcome at the tournament, regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said before the tournament began. The pledge was echoed by other FIFA officials as well as the head of Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee, said months ago.
The alleged questioning of people wearing rainbow flags raised the possibility that official guidance on allowing the symbol had not reached the vast army of volunteers and employees working at the tournament. Or that Qatar, fearing a backlash from conservatives, had changed course and was cracking down.
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 was no statement from FIFA or Qatar about the rainbow flag on Tuesday.
FIFA has already faced criticism for suppressing LGBTQ symbolism. On Monday, the soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced their captains would not wear rainbow armbands in Qatar after FIFA said players wearing the bands would be punished. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blanken criticized FIFA’s decision during a visit to Doha, calling it “worrying”.
Neither FIFA nor Qatari officials immediately responded to a request on Tuesday to clarify what guidance exists for fans who want to display the rainbow symbol in official tournament zones and other Gulf states. , where sex between men is illegal.
Former Welsh professional footballer Laura McAllister Tweeted That he was refused entry to a FIFA stadium by security officials on Monday because he was wearing a rainbow-themed supporters’ hat. McAllister said he was told by authorities that the rainbow symbol was prohibited, according to an interview with ITV News.
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“When we went through security, some of the security guards said we had to take the hat off. When I asked them, they said ‘because it was a forbidden symbol and we weren’t allowed to wear it in the stadium,'” he said. “They were insisting that we wouldn’t actually be allowed into the stadium unless I took the hat off,” she said, eventually managing to sneak in with the hat hidden.
In a separate incident before the same match, American soccer writer Grant Wahl said he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a shirt with a shirt attached. Wahl later said he was detained for half an hour in an “unnecessary ordeal” but was eventually allowed into the stadium. “Go gay,” he wrote on Twitter Sharing a picture of a shirt with a shirt emoji.
According to guidance shared by FIFA as recently as last week, football fans are advised that they are free to express their identity in official tournament zones without retribution. “There is no risk; 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 on Wednesday. told the News. “They’re not going to get in trouble for public displays of affection.”
At the time, FIFA clarified that its guidance did not apply to areas outside official tournament zones, where the rules are less clear.
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On Monday, football fan Justin Martin said he was confronted several times by fellow subway passengers carrying a small rainbow flag, including while traveling to the Wales-US match, including Two men were wearing FIFA volunteer uniforms. Justin Martin told The Washington Post in a telephone interview that five people asked him to remove the symbol during the entire subway ride, and that one passenger physically assaulted him when he refused to put the flag down. But got angry.
Martin, a journalism professor who lives in Qatar, said he does not identify as LGBTQ but was carrying the symbol as a show of support for marginalized groups when he was accosted by other passengers. Asked to remove the bar.
“I was standing on the train using my phone with a sign in my hand. I was approached by two young FIFA volunteers in maroon t-shirts with ‘Volunteer’ written on the back and they spoke about the local culture. He encouraged me to remove the flag to show respect. When he refused, Martin says one of the volunteers on display became enraged and called it “disgusting.”
A few minutes later, Martin said, another passenger angrily asked him to remove the small sign again, he also became agitated and used his body to threaten Martin when he refused. “He physically got into my seat and pushed me through the train door,” Martin said, adding that the man then chased her around the subway carriage while filming her. started doing
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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.
Martin added that two other members of the public also contacted Martin while he was traveling to ask him to remove the sign.
“I’m sad. I’m afraid to put my mark on the USA-England match on Friday,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good,” he added, stressing that The experience of feeling unsafe does not represent their broader experiences of Qatar.
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The reports add to existing pressure on FIFA to show support for LGBTQ rights and the community during the tournament, during which the rainbow has become a particularly fraught symbol.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blanken directly criticized the body’s decision to punish World Cup soccer players with yellow cards if they wear rainbow-themed armbands in support of diversity and inclusion – this Saying that it put the world’s athletes in an impossible position. Two yellow cards result in a player being sent off.
The decision prompted seven European World Cup captains from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark to wear “OneLove” armbands in solidarity with LGBTQ people.
“It’s always concerning in my view when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and inclusion,” Blanken said at a meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in the capital Doha. said at a joint news conference.
“No one on the football pitch should be forced to choose between upholding these values and playing for their team,” Blanken said.
Sand reported from London; Hudson from Doha, Qatar. Karim Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.
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