Face football fans wearing rainbow flags at the Qatar 2022 World Cup

Suspension

Football fans wearing rainbows, a symbol of LGBT inclusiveness, said they were banned from World Cup stadiums and confronted by spectators for removing the logo, despite assurances from FIFA, soccer’s governing body, that visitors would be allowed in freely. They express their identity during the tournament in Qatar.

American and Welsh fans were asked by stadium security and members of the public to hide rainbow-themed items from view, fans said, both in official areas and on the Underground. In some cases, fans said they were denied entry to matches unless they removed rainbow-themed emblems, although others reported that they were able to bring the rainbow symbol into stadiums without problems.

Former Welsh professional footballer Laura McCallister chirp Security officials were denied entry to a FIFA stadium on Monday because she was wearing a rainbow fan hat. McAllister said officials told her the rainbow symbol was prohibited, according to an interview with ITV News.

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“When we got through security, some of the security guards said we had to take the hat off. When I asked them why, they said ‘because it’s a forbidden symbol and we weren’t allowed to wear it on the field,’” she said. “They insisted that unless I took the hat off we wouldn’t be allowed on the field.” I eventually managed to get in by hiding the hat.

In a separate incident prior to the same game, NFL writer Grant Wahl said he was stopped by a security guard for wearing a rainbow shirt. Wahl later said he was held for half an hour in “unnecessary distress” but was eventually allowed onto the field. “Just go gay,” he is wrote on Twitter With a rainbow emoji and share a picture of the shirt.

In accordance with guidelines recently published by FIFA last week, football fans have been told that they are free to express their identities within the official tournament areas without any consequences. “There is no danger. They are welcome to express themselves; they are welcome to express their love for their partners,” FIFA’s Head of Fan Experience Gerden Lindhout told ITV News Wednesday. “They won’t get into trouble for public displays of affection. “

It was not immediately clear on Tuesday if the authority’s guidelines for rainbow symbols had changed or if the policy was applied unevenly on the opening days of the tournament.

At the time, FIFA made it clear that its guidelines did not apply to areas outside the official tournament areas, where the rules are less clear.

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Football fan Justin Martin said he was confronted several times by Underground commuters while also traveling to the Wales-US match carrying a small rainbow flag, including two men in FIFA Volunteer uniforms. Five people asked him to remove the symbol from sight during the subway ride in total, Justin Martin told The Washington Post in a phone interview, and one passenger became physically agitated when he refused to take the flag off.

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

“I was standing on the train with the crest in my hand, using my phone. Two young FIFA volunteers in maroon T-shirts with the word ‘Volunteer’ written on the back called me and encouraged me to wave the flag away to respect the local culture.” When he refused, Martin says one apparent volunteer became agitated and called him “disgusting.”

Minutes later, Martin said he was again angrily told by another passenger to remove the small badge, also becoming furious and using his body to intimidate Martin when he refused. “He physically reached into my space and I was pushed against the door of the train,” Martin told The Post, who said the person then followed him around the subway car as he filmed.

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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 approached Martin during his trip to ask him to remove the symbol.

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

Neither FIFA nor Qatari officials immediately responded on Tuesday to a request from The Washington Post to clarify what guidelines exist for fans who wish to display the rainbow symbol in areas of official tournaments and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf country, where sex between men is illegal. .

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The reports add to the 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 charged symbol.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken directly criticized the body’s decision to sanction World Cup soccer players with yellow cards if they wear rainbow armbands in support of diversity and inclusion – saying it puts world-class athletes in an impossible position. Two yellow cards lead to the player being kicked out of the match.

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

“It is always disturbing from my point of view when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression; this is especially true when it is an expression of diversity and inclusion,” Blinken said at a joint press conference in Doha alongside 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,” he said.

John Hudson contributed to this report from Doha, Qatar.

World Cup in Qatar

Live updates: The FIFA World Cup continues in Qatar, on Tuesday, with four matches that include one of the greatest players in history and the defending champion, who begins to defend his title. Follow our live coverage, analysis and highlights.

USMNT: In their return to the World Cup, the young Americans settled for a 1-1 draw with Wales in the opening match of Group B. The US men’s national team will face a longer task on Friday against Group B favorites England, who defeated Iran 6-2 earlier on Monday.

FIFA threats: Soccer teams representing seven European countries at the World Cup announced on Monday that their captains will no longer wear LGBTQ armbands in Qatar after FIFA said players who wear such teams would be penalized. Qatari officials have arbitrarily arrested and abused LGBT people, in some cases as recently as last month, according to Human Rights Watch.

Groups directory: The men’s national soccer team, led by coach Greg Berhalter and star striker Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement from their disastrous and failed 2018 campaign. Here’s a closer look at how all the teams stack up in each group.

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