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World Cup: footballers and fans push back against Qatar’s anti-LGBT rules

Rainbow hats and ‘OneLove’ armbands have become a new flashpoint for controversy at the 2022 football tournament

FIFA, the governing body that oversees the World Cup, is said to be in “urgent talks” with Qatar after fans wearing rainbow merchandise were blocked from entering stadiums during the opening games of the 2022 World Cup.

Earlier this week (November 21), ITV News shared a video to Twitter that appears to show former Wales captain Laura McAllister being asked to take a rainbow bucket hat off by security. Other women, and to a lesser extent men, wearing the hat – which is designed by LGBTQ+ football organisation The Rainbow Wall, to promote inclusion and equality in football – reportedly had them taken away at the gates.

“I pointed out that FIFA had made lots of comments about supporting LGBT rights in this tournament, and said to them that coming from a nation where we’re very passionate about equality for all people, I wasn’t going to take my hat off,” McAllister told reporters. “They were insistent that unless I took the hat off we weren’t actually allowed to come into the stadium.”

McAllister did win a “small moral victory” despite security’s demands, she adds, as she managed to sneak the hat into the stadium by hiding it in her handbag.

Other fans attending the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have reported similar incidents, such as having merchandise confiscated, or even being detained by security for wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow design. Additionally, Iranian fans who carried pre-revolutionary flags to their game against England on Monday, as a protest against Iran’s theocratic government, were also forced to surrender their flags and turn any clothing adorned with the flag inside-out.

Of course, this is far from the only controversy at the 2022 World Cup. Before it even began, this year’s tournament was marred by the unexplained deaths of thousands of migrant workers since Qatar launched a successful bid to host it over a decade ago.

FIFA is also under increasing pressure following a high-profile U-turn by several European team captains who had pledged to wear “OneLove” armbands in support of LGBTQ+ rights throughout the tournament. Just hours before the competition kicked off, FIFA warned it would issue a yellow card to any player wearing the armband, in line with the stance on LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal and in some cases punishable by death.

Alongside fans, player themselves have been captured pushing back against restrictions. Germany’s team photo, for example, saw the players holding their hands over their mouths as a comment on the armband restrictions. Iranian players, meanwhile, stayed silent during their national anthem, in what has been interpreted as a show of solidarity with protestors in their home country.

“FIFA is an inclusive organisation that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but it has to be done within the framework of the competition regulations which are known to everyone,” FIFA said in a statement on Monday. In place of the “OneLove” campaign, it has promoted its own “No Discrimination” campaign with different armbands.

Needless to say, though, banning fans from stadiums for wearing pro-LGBTQ+ merchandise definitely falls under the definition of discrimination. During talks on Tuesday (November 23), FIFA apparently reminded the host country that everyone is welcome, and merch such as rainbow flags should be allowed.

You can read more about the ethical concerns surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar here.

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