The 2019 World Cup has been a brilliant year for football – a beautiful celebration of diversity, LGBT + players, calls for equal pay, supportive families in the stands. I’m talking about women’s football, of course men’s football has a long way to go.
Next weekend I’m taking my young son to his first Premier League game. I’ve been a sports fan all my life, and 2022, before the FIFA Men’s World Cup, is the year I want him to discover the beautiful game.
My partner – who doesn’t like most sports – wonders if there will be hooligans (my team is West Ham – and she saw Green Street). Fortunately, those days are mostly over. What concerns me most is to introduce my son to a world in which his family will always be outside. It would not be prudent for us to attend the World Cup in Qatar together, due to the country’s stance on LGBT + rights. Not much has been done to change that and I can’t help but think that there is a general indifference around the issue in the male game as a whole.
According to Qatari law, “offenders” risk everything from flogging to long prison terms and even execution. Fifa’s code of ethics prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation – but here we are with a World Cup in the second most dangerous country for gay travelers.
In 2014, the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States even proposed to completely ban gay players and fans from attending the World Cup. The council suggested that tourists should take a “homosexuality test” – those who failed the “test” would have their visas revoked. There is of course no such medical test and luckily pressure from the global community has caused Qatar to do an about-face. But you can still be locked up or killed for having a same-sex relationship in the country.
The world’s only openly gay professional male footballer Josh Cavallo, who plays for Adelaide United, said he would be “scared” to play for Qatar. It is no surprise that there is only one openly gay male football player in the entire world when football governing bodies allow large tournaments to be held in such places.
Ahead of Christmas, Olympic diver Tom Daley said his “only Christmas wish” would be for male professional soccer players to speak openly about their sexuality and urged the sport to change, saying it could “save the life of countless young people who don’t. currently feel as if they have a place in this world ”. On average, around the world, 7% of people identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to an Ipsos study.
“Statistically, there are enough [gay] players from three football teams who visit this field every week. At least one gay man in every Premier League club living a lie, ”Daley said. “Why do we allow places that are not safe for all fans and players to host our most prestigious sporting events? “
It could be the year that English football ‘comes home’, but if it does, celebrating ‘Qatar 2022’ for years to come would be a mistake under the circumstances. At the very least, our official sports broadcasters and bodies must pressure Qatar to suspend its anti-LGBT + laws ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, so that all fans can attend matches without fear of persecution.
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The past year has proven that men’s football can be a force for good. The Three Lions got down on their knees on the world stage in their most successful European Championship to date. Marcus Rashford has battled food poverty at home. Jordan Henderson praised brave non-binary football fans online, saying “football is for everyone, no matter what”.
Of course, it’s not always easy. After Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford missed penalties in the shootout that won the Italian tournament, racist abuse against the three black players cast a shadow over the England team’s achievements . Discrimination exists. But our response to questions of discrimination; the nation recognized this heinous behavior and tried to eradicate it. Everyone from Boris Johnson to the Football Association has condemned racism and several people have been arrested for racist abuse online.
We need the same momentum for this year’s World Cup in Qatar when it comes to homophobia. We must recognize what is right and wrong in football in 2022, because to ignore it would legitimize Qatar’s gross human rights violations.