Josh Cavallo makes emotional plea for LGBTQ+ rights at World Cup: ‘We must do better’

Josh Cavallo next to the World Cup

Gay footballer Josh Cavallo has said LGBTQ+ rights must be considered when deciding on host countries for the World Cup.

Australia’s first active gay male footballer spoke during the Attitude Awards on Wednesday (12 October) where he addressed anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Qatar, where the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held.

The region – which is due to host the football event in November – has laws that can see LGBTQ+ individuals face imprisonment, a fine, or even the death penalty under Sharia law.

Cavallo said during the awards ceremony the work which still needs to be done “is staggering,” adding that many LGBTQ+ people face significant harm for “living honestly.

“We’re far from true equality when 69 countries still criminalise LGBTQ+ people [and] brush these issues off, not realising their son or daughter or teammate might be LGBTQ+,” he said.

“The athletes they cheer for [may be] bisexual or non-binary.

“I vow to stand up for the LGBTQ+ athletes and the fans at the World Cup in Qatar who can’t live openly or authentically. Qatar, FIFA, the world is watching. Do you see us?”

Josh Cavallo was Australia's first active gay male footballer to come out.

Josh Cavallo was Australia’s first active gay male footballer to come out. (Getty)

He finished his speech urging football authoritative bodies to “consider our rights [and] our safety” while choosing future World Cup host countries.

“We must do better.”

The athlete has previously said he would be “scared” to play in Qatar due to its harsh ban on open LGBTQ+ identities, adding that it made him “re-evaluate.”

“Is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?” he said.

The Qatar World Cup controversy

The football governing body landed in decade-long hot water after it selected the middle-eastern country to host the World Cup on 2 December 2010.

Pro-LGBTQ+ activists have massively criticised the decision, considering the country’s incredibly archaic laws on openly queer individuals.

Qatar officiators claimed Pride flags would be confiscated and public displays of same-sex affection would be punishable, with the Qatar World Cup bid team head Hassan Al-Thawadi saying in 2013 that “public displays of affection [are] not part of our culture.”

Same-sex couples were eventually told they could kiss and hold hands in public without facing prosecution in September 2022 after years of urging the Football Association to convince Qatar authorities.

The controversy has grown as the event draws closer. After claiming the country was “perfection” in an ad campaign, footballer David Beckham was accused of “stamping out hope” for LGBTQ+ people in the country.

Various LGBTQ+ activists, including Dr Nas Mohamed – who has been labelled as the “first” Qatari man to publicly come out as gay – said football icon’s comments “undermine” Qatari LGBTQ+ people’s plea for asylum when escaping its harsh LGBTQ+ laws.