IT IS illegal to be a homosexual in Qatar, home of the 2022 World Cup. It is one of a number of important issues that have plagued FIFA’s premier tournament.
Teams have been warned that on field sanctions (Yellow Cards issued by referees on players which can result in a dismissal from a game after accumulating the maximum of two) will be imposed on team players if they wear armbands not sanctioned by the governing body.
Photo Courtesy AP
One of these accessories disallowed is the ONE LOVE armband which has been a staple for countries like England that support the LBGTQ+ community. This is worn by players like Harry Kane, the current England captain in lieu of the official captain’s armband but he has been forced to drop it due to the explicit rules imposed on players.
To avoid the trouble, some of the World Cup teams that normally support such causes have decided to go with the NO DISCRIMINATION armbands allowed by FIFA.
World football’s governing body has been faced with intense criticism for tolerating the host nation’s low labor and women’s wages and the criminalization of people from an alternative sexual orientation.
Photo Courtesy Deutsche Welle
The German team however, was bold enough to have their photos taken with their hands covering their mouths in their official team photos to protest the lack of free speech. It is unfortunate though that this brave stand has been used in memes and humorous commentary for their loss against Japan.
A number of Football Associations prior to the World Cup have asked FIFA to allow the usage of the ONE LOVE armband and have criticized the body for the unfavorable response and doing it hours before kick-off. To which FIFA answers back, saying that messages should be inclusive and not prioritize one concerned group.
Photo Courtesy getfootballnewsfrance.com
There also have been contrasting views regarding this as some players like France first choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris have voiced disapproval of using players to advance political views. He feels that players should be at the bottom of the food chain and should not be put under too much pressure to give such statements.
According to him, this (Fifa and Qatar World Cup hosting issues) should have been resolved 10 years ago by the powers that be. The player’s sole focus should be on the games they are competing in.
Lloris also has this take on giving due consideration to the host nation’s culture. He told reporters: “When we are in France, when we welcome foreigners, we often want them to follow our rules, to respect our culture, and I will do the same when I go to Qatar, quite simply.”
“I can agree or disagree with their ideas, but I have to show respect.”
At the moment, 69 countries still have not decriminalized homosexuality. There has been a concerted effort from different establishments to change that. Professional sports for its wide influence have been an important venue to spread the message of tolerance as part of a shared civic responsibility to their audience.
There is a valid discussion going on whether one principle is more important than the other or there is a way for a compromise. On one hand, respect for basic human rights and on the other, respect for one’s culture and beliefs.
This conversation will continue long after The World Cup. The most important sports event has become the hotbed for this hotbutton issue. Whatever the outcome, people hope they come out better than where they are.