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It’s a joke that FIFA preach diversity but then allow a World Cup in Qatar

When the term ‘respect our culture’ is used, I take it to mean that whilst in the home and/or presence of others, certain behaviours should be adopted as to not cause offence to them.

Like most of us and out of sheer respect for the people in my company, I’ve said many a grace around dinner tables, removed footwear before entering friends’ homes and been peripherally involved in religious and cultural practices in a host of situations over the years.

Flouting such courtesy would be the greatest of insults; something most of us avoid by acting respectfully towards the people with whom we are sharing space and/or interaction.

As the days count down to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the hosts have asked us all to consider the same and arrive, should we be travelling to the tournament, with a keen awareness of what is expected in the nation.

Speaking in Berlin on May 23, The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said, “Everybody is welcome in Doha. We do not stop anyone from coming to Doha with any different backgrounds, or any different beliefs.”

He continued, “We will not stop anybody from coming and enjoying the football. But I also want everybody to come and understand and enjoy our culture. We welcome everybody, but also we expect and we want people to respect our culture.”

Feel free to read the word culture in the above extract as code for bigoted views against the LGBTQIA+ community, that fly in the face of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Despite the rhetoric, certain Qatari hotels have deemed that accepting reservations from known same-sex couples is not a practice in which they will participate.

Brandishing a rainbow flag at matches is likely to be followed by a quick confiscation and foreign visitors to Qatar publicly expressing their love towards a partner could well face harassment and/or violent responses from locals.

The admission of Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari confirms such a possibility, expressed as he discussed the potential reactions of both the Qatari community and the officials charged with monitoring fans during the event.

His reasoning behind the anticipated reaction to a fan possessing and displaying a rainbow flag is utterly astonishing and somewhat counterintuitive, claiming that the snatching of the symbol is, “Not because I really want to, really, take it, to really insult him, but to protect him.”

It appears the Major General is well aware of the hatred and reaction likely to emanate from some in his country, as he continued and reasoned that such behaviours are in fact protectionist and not aggressive in nature.

“Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him) … I cannot guarantee the behaviour of the whole people. And I will tell him: ‘Please, no need to really raise that flag at this point.”

(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

These potential reactions to seeing diversity in Doha reflect the broadly held and legally supported views within a country where homosexuality, gender change and same-sex marriage remain illegal.

Yet this is the very same nation deemed appropriate by FIFA to host the footballing world in November.

Many around the globe still struggle to see past the thousands of workers killed and unaccounted for in the process of building and refurbishing stadiums in order for Qatar to be ready for the greatest show on earth.

The two disgraces combined will see FIFA present the most awful and ironic portrait of Qatar to the rest of the world, something even more saddening considering recent efforts made by the governing body to embrace diversity and engage with pride month.

How FIFA can adorn its head office in Zurich with the colours of the rainbow flag in June and then five months later invite us all to a place where people can be imprisoned or worse, where they to show affection towards the person they love, is utterly offensive.

I have decided not to travel to Qatar. Not in protest, just on principle. A number of Welsh fans have expressed the same view and logic suggests there will be political points made by some fans, determined to hold the Qatari government to account, for views that are completely out of step with modern thinking.

How the security details in stadiums and the local authorities choose, or are ordered to respond to any such expressions of protest, will be interesting.

Frankly, I am concerned for friends of mine who will be there, knowing that for some, the biting of tongues when it comes to such a fundamental human issue is not their best skill.

Thankfully, the football will be as magnificent as ever and covering it back in Australia will be more than enough for me this time around.

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