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FIFA World Cup: Qatar Turns Field for Gender Politics, 5 Controversies in 3 Days

Fans sporting rainbow attire were allegedly discriminated against at the USA-Wales match in Qatar.

Updated
Gender
4 min read

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar has become a field for the play of gender politics.

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar has become a field for the play of gender politics.

In the Arab nation where women's rights are curtailed and being queer is banned by law, the influx of an international and diverse audience has stirred several controversies within three days since the beginning of the championship.

While the Khalifa International Stadium became a stage for the women's protests underway in Iran, fans sporting rainbow attire were allegedly discriminated against at the USA-Wales match in Al-Rayyan.

Here's a lowdown on the gender-related controversies that have unfolded at the World Cup in Qatar so far.

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Silence, Booing at Iran's National Anthem

In a bold gesture of support to the women's protests back home, Iran's national football team chose to remain stoically silent as their national anthem played before their opening World Cup match against England on Monday, 21 November.

All of the starting 11 players kept mum as the anthem played at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar, with some gazing at the camera and others staring at the ground.

Iranian spectators in the stands also expressed their solidarity with the anti-government protests stirred after Mahsa Amini's death, holding up placards saying “Women, Life, Freedom" in the stadium and booing at the national anthem.

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US Journalist in Rainbow T-Shirt Told 'To Change It'

An American journalist was allegedly briefly detained by security forces on Monday when he tried to enter the World Cup stadium wearing a t-shirt with a rainbow, a mark of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

"Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales. “You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed,” Grant Wahl, a former Sports Illustrated journalist, had shared on Twitter.

"I’m OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal. Am in the media center, still wearing my shirt. Was detained for nearly half an hour. Go gays," he tweeted some time later from the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.

Wahl further said that his phone was briefly taken away when he tweeted about the incident. He said that a security commander had later approached him, apologised, and allowed him into the venue. "A FIFA rep later apologized to me as well," Wahl wrote in his blog.

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Rainbow Hats of Women Fans Confiscated

At the same game before which Wahl was detained, rainbow-coloured bucket hats donned by some women fans were confiscated upon entry.

The Rainbow Wall, a Welsh LGBTQ+ fans’ group, said on Twitter: “Not the men, just women. @FIFAcom ARE YOU SERIOUS!!”

Later, the group said that rainbow hats had been seized from the men as well, but that "it didn’t start out that way."

Former Wales footballer Laura McAllister was among those who had to give away their hats. “So, despite fine words from @FIFAWorldCup before event @Cymru rainbow bucket hats confiscated at stadium, mine included. I had a conversation about this with stewards – we have video evidence,” she said on Twitter.

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After Threat of 'Sporting Sanctions', One Love Armbands Dropped

Seven national football teams, including England, announced on Monday that they would not wear a rainbow armband at the World Cup in Qatar due to the fear of sanctions from FIFA.

"As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games," a joint statement from the teams – England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland – read.

The decision came after FIFA allegedly refused to approve the teams' request for sporting the armbands.

"We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response," the football federations said.

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The 'I Am Gay' Speech

A day before the kick-off of the tournament on Sunday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino made an unusual speech in Doha in a bid to quell the anxieties of football fans regarding the World Cup in Qatar.

"Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker," Infantino said in his address. "I know what it feels [like] to be discriminated [against]… I was bullied because I had red hair," he further added.

Infantino's remarks were met with widespread backlash, and were termed as "deluded," "offensive," and "insensitive."

In the months ahead of the World Cup, football fans belonging to gender minorities had raised concerns for their safety in Qatar.

Many fans had demanded clearer guarantees of security from the organisers and have also questioned FIFA's decision of holding the event in Qatar, which has been under fire for its migrant abuse and anti-LGBTQ+ regime.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from neon and gender

Topics:  Qatar   FIFA   LGBTQ+ 

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