Over the past two years, the Western world has pushed for inclusivity and sensitivity to the various struggles of groups in society. Simply put, this is a reasonable push given the decades of stereotyping, misunderstandings and violence towards these groups.
Many big brands have joined us to support people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, among others. This was not limited to brands. Artists, athletes, sports leagues and many more have decided to support the cause. For what it’s worth, FIFA is no different.
FIFA began using slogans such as “Say No to Racism” and “Stop Racism, Stop Violence”. FIFA has displayed these banners on billboards around pitches in countries that allow them. Additionally, FIFA encouraged entire teams to take a knee before kick-off in conjunction with Voices Against Racism. Then international matches and the Premier League featured rainbow colored armbands. A nice touch towards the LGBTQ+ community to show the players and the gaming stand with them.
FIFA talks inclusiveness at World Cup, but doesn’t deliver
Yet, it all seems to be for naught when you look at their actions. Let’s take the biggest possible example in which the country is hosting the 2022 World Cup.
It’s no secret that the government of Qatar disagrees with FIFA in its empowerment of the LGBTQ+ community. Before that was a concern, however, Qatar were already serving as a confusing World Cup pick. Brutally hot summers, calendar problems and a patently poor human rights record are three of the main culprits. Finances play a huge role in why the World Cup is there. Sepp Blatter, who ran FIFA when Qatar won the hosting rights, even admitted it was a mistake.
The FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be unlike any before it. The strict laws in Qatar do not align with much of the western world. For example, there is no alcohol served in the stadiums, and the usual festive atmosphere of the World Cup follows caution more than anything else. Adding to this are issues regarding LGBTQ+ lives.
Qatar, welcoming the world to a fairly small country, said it would not restrict the posting of pro-LGBTQ+ images. This is part of FIFA’s inclusivity policies at the World Cup.
However, in April 2022, a senior Qatar World Cup official said there were plans to confiscate pride flags from spectators. Chairman of the National Committee of Qatar, General Al Ansari spoke to the AP on how this might unfold.
“If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really, really want to take it, really insult him, but to protect him. ‘Cause if it’s not me, someone else around him might (attack him)… I can’t guarantee everyone’s behavior. , no need to really raise that flag at this point.’
In May 2022, some accommodations listed by FIFA outright refused to accommodate same-sex couples. At the same time, other hotels have indicated that they will accept reservations for same-sex couples, as long as they hide their relationship in public.
The current penalty for violating Qatar’s LGBTQ-based laws is a fine or up to seven years in prison. If you are a Muslim and break these rules, the penalty could be death. These laws are clearly a matter of concern for all members of the LGBTQ community, whether spectators, staff or players.
LGBTQ+ on the pitch
Cultural differences are what make certain areas special, it’s just a part of life. However, it is possible that these rules go against the inclusion that FIFA has hailed with its words.
There is growing representation in sport of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Take Australian Josh Cavallo. He came out to the public back in October 2021. The 22-year-old plays for Adelaide United as a left-back or midfielder. He could face a heartbreaking decision. With Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ set in stone, Cavallo may choose not to go with Australia to ensure his safety or simply avoid being an outsider at the world’s biggest sporting event.
Despite the inherent dangers listed for the LGBTQ+ community, Cavallo said he would love to represent Australia. Even then, he understands the risks associated with going into the country. Still, not every player, staff member, or fan who is part of the community is willing to take that risk.
Cavallo is one of the few active players to come out openly as gay. Her brave confession came on the basis of the freedom of her own identity. He wants to open the door for other players to do the same, if they feel like it. Cavallo received praise and admiration for his actions, especially from Zlatan Ibrahimović and Antoine Griezmann. At the time, there were no openly gay men playing professional football at the top level in Europe. Then, in 2022, Blackpool striker Jake Daniels became just the second player to come out openly. That was until Blackpool striker, Jake Daniels came out in 2022 and became only the second player to come out openly.
It is certainly wrong to assume that there are only two top football players in the LGBTQ+ community. However, why would players go out knowing it would attract more attention given that the World Cup is being held in a place like Qatar?
FIFA can be said to be a progressive organization that works to welcome and include minorities and social groups. Yet his actions do not reflect this goal.
Instead, stocks prioritize monetary gain and greed more than inclusiveness. This is frankly embarrassing for the players. Moreover, this is just one scope on the general list of World Cup issues in Qatar.
A World Cup in the desert requires fully air-conditioned stadiums to be accessible. The timing disrupts the usual league and cup schedule in Europe, which is home to almost all of the biggest players. To top it off, around 6,500 workers died preparing for this World Cup. This, in itself, makes it hard to believe that FIFA cares about minority groups. Horribly enough, that number is on the low end. It does not include worker deaths from countries like Qatar, the Philippines and Kenya. Data from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal revealed that there were 5,927 migrant worker deaths between 2010 and 2020, while reports from the Pakistani Embassy in Qatar indicated that 824 deaths Pakistani workers had been suffered between 2010 and 2020.
At the surface level, FIFA ticks the boxes for inclusivity at the World Cup. Take a step back and take a good look at the situation. You see that there is still a huge amount of work to do for the organization as a whole.
Fortunately, brave faces like Australian Josh Cavallo and Englishman Jake Daniels are paving the way for future generations.
PHOTO: Dean Mouhtaropoulos – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images