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posted Friday, December 17, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 51
World Cup controversy over LGBT rights in Qatar
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World Cup controversy over LGBT rights in Qatar

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

FIFA's choice of the Persian Gulf country of Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup immediately sparked protests from LGBT rights activists.

Like most Arab countries, Qatar has laws against same-sex relations and is not considered to be a hospitable venue for Gay soccer fans.

Qatar was the surprise winner of the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, beating Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S.

FIFA - world soccer's governing body - made the announcement on December 2.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter made the mood of Gay fans even more morose at a December 13 press conference.

Blatter was asked if he foresaw any cultural problems for Gay soccer fans in a conservative Muslim country.

Hoping that humor might defuse concerns over Qatar's legal restrictions, Blatter quipped, 'I'd say they should refrain from any sexual activities.'

Almost as if regretting the remark, Blatter immediately launched into a rambling defense of his organization's 2022 host pick.

'We are definitely living in a world of freedom and I'm sure when the World Cup will be in Qatar in 2022, there will be no problems,' he said.

'You see in the Middle East the opening of this culture, it's another culture because it's another religion, but in football we have no boundaries.

'We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings be it on this side or that side, be it left, right, or whatever.

'If they want to watch a match somewhere in Qatar 2022, I'm sure they will be admitted to such matches.'

Blatter's remarks didn't help.

The Gay Football Supporters' Network (GFSN) immediately protested.

'While we're working with [FIFA] to get people to understand there is an issue with homophobia around football - Sepp Blatter is simply not getting the issue,' GFSN campaigns officer Ed Connell said.

'Many LGBT people live in countries where they would face execution or imprisonment if discovered, these people deserve our help, our respect and our support,' said GFSN chair Chris Basiurski.

'They, like the rest of us, do not deserve to be laughed at. Mr. Blatter should retract his remarks and apologize immediately. Otherwise, he should reconsider his position and resign.

'Mr. Blatter is naive to think that by taking the beautiful game to Qatar, it will bring an end to discrimination in the Middle East.

'He says that football is 'everything for everyone' but he has not yet explained just how FIFA is going to ensure that LGBT football players and supporters will be welcome in Qatar.'

British basketball star John Amaechi, one of the world's highest-profile Gay athletes, was highly critical of Blatter's comments.

'It's absurd,' he told BBC News. 'It's not about people having sex in public and being sanctioned for it, it's the fact that Qatar was one of 79 countries to sanction executing Gays at the United Nations.'

Last month Qatar was one of several U.N. members voting to strike language protecting sexual orientation from a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

According to BBC News, FIFA has declined to comment about Blatter's statement or LGBT rights in Qatar.

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