Security and public officials have been at the stadium since the World Cup kicked off on Sunday American and Welsh fans have been asked to hide rainbow-themed items from public view, fans say, in official areas and on the subway. In some cases, fans said they were refused entry to matches until the rainbow-themed emblems were removed, but others said they were able to bring the rainbow symbol into stadiums without any problems.
FIFA officials have for years sought to allay concerns that LGBTQ fans traveling to Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation that has jailed homosexuality, will face discrimination. FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a month before the tournament began: “Let me repeat this very clearly: everyone is welcome to the tournament, regardless of race, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.” Other FIFA officials as well as the head of Qatar’s World Cup Organizing Committee.
Questioning people wearing rainbow flags made it more likely that the official guidelines for allowing the symbol would not fall on the large army of volunteers and staff who maintain the tournament; or Qatar, fearing a backlash from conservatives, was changing course and applying pressure.
But last week, when Qatar reversed its earlier decision to ban the sale of beer outside World Cup stadiums, FIFA issued a statement announcing the change. There were no such statements from FIFA or Qatar about the rainbow flag on Tuesday.
FIFA has previously faced criticism for stifling LGBTQ symbols. The soccer teams representing seven European nations at the World Cup announced on Monday that their captains in Qatar will not wear the rainbow armband after FIFA said players playing the balls would be punished. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized FIFA’s decision during a visit to Doha, calling it “inappropriate”.
Officials from both FIFA and Qatar did not immediately respond to requests on Tuesday to clarify the guidelines for fans who want to display the rainbow symbol, where sex between men is illegal, in official tournament zones and elsewhere in the Gulf.
Former Welsh professional footballer Laura McAllister tweeted On Monday, he was turned away by security at the FIFA stadium because he was wearing a rainbow-themed supporters’ hat. McAllister told ITV News that he had been told by officials that the rainbow symbol was banned.
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“When we went through security, some guards told us to take off our hats. When I asked the reason, they said, “It is a forbidden symbol, so it is forbidden to wear it in the stadium,” he said. “They insisted we couldn’t enter the stadium unless I took off my hat.” Finally, he managed to hide his hat.
In a separate incident before the same match, American soccer writer Grant Wall said he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a rainbow shirt. Wall later said he was detained for half an hour with an “unnecessary ordeal” but was eventually allowed to enter the stadium. “Go to the gays,” he said He wrote on Twitter Share a photo of the shirt with a rainbow emoji.
According to guidelines shared by FIFA just last week, soccer fans have been advised to express their identities freely in official tournament zones without repercussions. “There is no danger; they are ready to express themselves; they can express their love for their partners,” Gerdin Lindhout, FIFA’s head of fan experience, told ITV News on Wednesday. “They don’t get in trouble for public displays of affection.”
At the time, FIFA clarified that its guidelines 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 by subway passengers several times carrying rainbow flags to the Wales-USA match, including two men dressed in official FIFA volunteer uniforms. Five people have asked him to remove the symbol while on the subway in total, Justin Martin told The Washington Post in a phone interview, and one passenger was physically agitated when he refused to hide the flag.
Martin, a journalism professor who lives in Qatar, said he does not identify as LGBTQ, but carried the symbol as a show of support for marginalized groups when other passengers repeatedly asked him to remove it.
“I was standing on the train with the emblem in my hand, using my phone. “I was approached by two young FIFA volunteers wearing brown t-shirts with ‘volunteer’ written on the back and encouraged to remove the flag to respect the local culture.” When she refused, Martin says one of the volunteers became agitated and described her as “disgusting.”
A few minutes later, Martin said, another passenger angrily asked him to remove the small emblem again, and when he refused, he became agitated and used his body to threaten Martin. “He physically invaded my space and pushed me against the train door,” Martin said, adding that the man then followed him in a subway car while filming.
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A football fan who witnessed the exchange confirmed Martin’s altercation to The Post in a separate interview.
While Martin was on the trip, two other members of the community also approached him and asked him to remove the symbol, Martin added.
“I am sad. “I’m afraid to bring my emblem to the USA-England match on Friday,” he said. “It doesn’t make me feel good,” he added, stressing that his experience of feeling unsafe was not representative of the wider experience across Qatar.
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The reports add to FIFA’s push for LGBTQ rights and community support during the tournament.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday directly criticized the body’s decision to issue World Cup soccer players with yellow cards if they wore rainbow-themed armbands to support diversity and inclusion – saying it left the world’s athletes in an impossible position. Two yellow cards will result in a player being sent off.
The decision prompted seven European Championship captains from England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark to take off their ‘OneLove’ armbands in solidarity with LGBTQ people.
“From my point of view, we are always interested when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. This is especially true when it comes to diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani in the capital, Doha.
“No one on the football field should have to choose between upholding these values and playing for their team,” Blinken said.
Karim Fahim in Doha contributed to this report.
The World Cup held in Qatar
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