We’re in the first week of the 2022 World Cup and its host, Qatar, continues to be entangled in controversy.
The country’s hardline stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) issues is at the forefront of the world’s attention.
As a result, journalists, football players and fans have been involved in a string of incidents over their rainbow-coloured clothing.
Firstly, what does the ‘OneLove’ logo symbolise?
The heart-shaped, rainbow-coloured logo has put the World Cup’s host in a lot of hot water.
A symbol of diversity, inclusivity and anti-discrimination, the armbands which feature the logo have been widely viewed as a protest against Qatar’s homosexuality laws.
What are Qatar’s laws on same-sex relationships?
Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under Qatar’s Penal Code 2004.
The code criminalised acts of sexual intercourse between people of the same sex.
These provisions carry a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment.
Both men and women are criminalised under this law.
Qatari organisers of the World Cup have warned visitors against public displays of affection, but say that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome at the event.
In the 12 years since Qatar was named host of the 2022 tournament, the country has faced intensifying criticism over its rights record on labourers, women and the LGBT+ community.
The criticism has been further fuelled by comments from public figures, including former Qatar player and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman, who described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German broadcaster.
European players abandon OneLove armbands after FIFA’s yellow card threat
Seven captains of European nations had planned to wear the OneLove armbands.
However, a FIFA verdict delivered on Monday threatened the captains with yellow cards if they wore the armbands during games.
In a joint statement, the seven football associations said they couldn’t sacrifice success on the field for the initiative and will not wear the armbands.
“As national federations we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings,” the associations said.
Australian footballer Josh Cavallo — who came out as gay last year — says FIFA has shown his sport is not for everyone by vowing to penalise players wearing the armbands.
“FIFA you have lost my respect,” Cavallo posted on social media.
“All the work we’re doing to make football more inclusive [and] you have shown that football isn’t a place for everyone.”
BBC journalist wore the armband after European teams dropped it
English sports presenter, pundit and former professional footballer Alex Scott wore the OneLove rainbow armband as she presented coverage of England’s first match
Her decision came hours after the England and Wales teams decided not to follow suit after being informed that players could receive yellow cards for breaching FIFA’s clothing rules
FIFA rejects ‘Love’ detail on Belgium’s World Cup jersey
FIFA denied the Belgium soccer team’s request to wear an “away” jersey with a “Love” label inside the collar combined with a rainbow-coloured trim on the shirt, a Belgium spokesperson said on Monday.
The design was inspired by the fireworks of Belgium’s famous music festival Tomorrowland and stands for diversity, equality and inclusivity.
But FIFA rules on team uniforms and equipment forced a change, with Belgium sticking to their traditional red “home” shirts.
“We had to skip it for commercial reasons because of referring to Tomorrowland,” the Belgian soccer federation said Monday.
US journalist says he was detained over his rainbow shirt
Grant Wahl, a journalist who runs a Substack covering football, wore a black shirt with a rainbow on it as he made his way to the United States’ opener against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.
But security denied him entrance to the stadium and asked him to change his shirt saying, “It’s not allowed”.
The former Sports Illustrated journalist shared his experience in a tweet, before elaborating on it in his Substack column hours after.
Wahl said he was detained for 25 minutes and told to remove his shirt, which a member of security staff said was “political”
After almost half an hour, Wahl said a security commander approached him, apologised and allowed him into the venue.
He also later received an apology from a representative of FIFA.
“One of the security guards told me they were just trying to protect me from fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt,” Wahl wrote in his column.
“But the entire episode left me wondering: What’s it like for ordinary Qataris who might wear a rainbow shirt when the world isn’t watching here?”
An ex-Wales footballer says she was told to remove her rainbow bucket hat
Laura McAllister, a gay woman and past FIFA Council candidate, said she was told to remove her hat before the start of the same game.
BBC Wales reported that officials told Ms McAllister her hat was considered a restricted item, and would need to be handed in.
Video footage taken of the incident appears to show officers telling Ms McAllister to remove her hat.
The incident came despite previous assurances that fans would be allowed to wear them.
At the same game, a Welsh LGBTQ+ supporters group named The Rainbow Wall said some of its members were forbidden from wearing rainbow hats at the same game.
“Not the men, just women. @FIFAcom ARE YOU SERIOUS!!” the group said on Twitter.
An hour later, the group confirmed that the hats were confiscated from only women.
ABC with wires