German footballer Leon Goretzka slams ‘oppressive’ Qatar homophobia: ‘From a different millennium’

Leon Goretzka

Football players and fans have slammed a Qatar World Cup ambassador after he claimed homosexuality is “damage in the mind”.

Former Qatari international footballer Khalid Salman made the comments during an interview in which he attempted to explain why homosexuality is illegal in the conservative country, ahead of the World Cup.

In an interview filmed in the country’s capital Doha, Salman said: “They [football fans] have to accept our rules out here.

“[Homosexuality] is haram. You know what haram [forbidden] means?

“I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”

Reuters reported that, following this statement, the interview was immediately stopped by an accompanying official.

Salman’s comments have been criticised by footballers and fans alike, with Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka saying the comments were “from a different millennium”, according to the BBC.

Speaking after a game on Tuesday (8 November), Goretzka reportedly told German media: “It’s very oppressive. This is an image of a man that comes from another millennium.

“It leaves you speechless that something like this can be said by a World Cup ambassador shortly before a World Cup.”

Two men kiss in Zurich by goalpost and rainbow flags

A protest took place against the World Cup in Qatar outside the FIFA museum in Zurich (Getty Images)

Banners held at the Bayern Munich game by fans read “Damaged mind?” and “F**k you Khalid”. 

The German Football Association (DFB) president Bernd Neuendorf also reportedly called for FIFA to “seriously examine whether its ethics committee should deal with the interview. 

Human Rights Watch added that his comments were “harmful and unacceptable”.

This is not the first time the LGBTQ+ community has been targeted ahead of the World Cup, with a Qatari journalist calling queer people “abnormal” in October, and stating it was a “blessed moment” when the LGBTQ+ community began to boycott the football tournament.

FIFA has consistently reassured LGBTQ+ fans they will be safe to visit Qatar when the World Cup begins on 20 November, however several fans have chosen to boycott the World Cup instead, adding that the association’s safety promises are “not even close” to what is needed.

Chief executive of the Football Association (FA), Mark Bullingham, promised that fans will not face arrest for holding hands or kissing at the World Cup, but Qatar’s ambassador to the UK has said LGBTQ+ couples should be mindful of “public displays of affection”.

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.”