FIFA tells World Cup players ‘don’t hand out moral lessons’ amid Qatar LGBTQ+ backlash

World Cup in Qatar

FIFA bosses have urged players to “focus on the football” rather than “handing out moral lessons” ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, despite concerns over the country’s record on LGBTQ+ rights.

In a letter from FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the governing body’s secretary general Fatma Samoura, seen by Sky News, players were asked to “not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists”.

Reportedly sent to the 32 football nations competing at the World Cup, including England and Wales, the letter read: “We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.

“But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.

“At FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without handing out moral lessons to the rest of the world… No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other.

“Please let’s all remember that and let football take centre stage.”
Players from Wales have already been told they can address any issue they like while they’re visiting Qatar.

Promises ‘not even close’ to what’s needed

Infantino and Samoura added that everyone will be welcome in Qatar “regardless of origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”.

Despite homosexuality being illegal in Qatar, FIFA has consistently reassured LGBTQ+ fans they will be safe to visit the country.

Several fans, however, have chosen to boycott the World Cup instead, adding that the association’s safety promises are “not even close” to what is needed.

The decision by some to boycott came as Qatar was accused of arresting and abusing LGBTQ+ Qataris as recently as October, with a trans woman stating that she was detained for three weeks without charge, and was only released when she agreed to undergo conversion therapy.

Collage of James Cleverly, the World Cup trophy and a rainbow

James Cleverly’s remarks on how LGBTQ+ football fans should be ‘respectful’ in Qatar have been criticised by Labour MP Nadia Whittome. (Getty Images/Dan Kitwood/)

Foreign secretary James Cleverly previously attracted criticism for asking LGBTQ+ fans to “compromise” with Qatar, saying it is an “Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms”.

“One of the things I would say for football fans is, you know, please do be respectful of the host nation… with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup,” he told LBC.

Qatar’s ambassador to the UK then added visiting LGBTQ+ fans could “hold hands” but should be “mindful” of “public displays of affection” at the tournament, which begins on 20 November.

FIFA told PinkNews in a statement: “Qatar is committed to ensuring that everyone will be able to enjoy the tournament in a safe and welcoming environment, to building bridges of cultural understanding and to creating an inclusive experience for all participants and attendees, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community.

“FIFA is confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBTIQ+ fans and allies to enjoy the tournament in a welcoming and safe environment, just as for everyone else.”