Qatar World Cup: Zander Murray condemns ambassador’s ‘hurtful’ comments about homosexuality

A screenshot of footballer Zander Murray during the Scottish Cup First Round - Gala Fairydean Rovers v Sauchie Juniors

Zander Murray has condemned a Qatar World Cup ambassador who described being gay as “damage of the mind”, claiming he felt “hurt” and “upset” by the statements.

Murray, the first openly gay Scottish footballer, said former Qatari international footballer Khalid Salman’s comments about homosexuality “deserve a backlash”.

Gala Fairydean Rovers striker Murray told the Daily Mail that since he has come out publicly, he “can’t fail to be hurt” by comments such as these.

Zander Murray said: “Since I went public, the reaction has been so positive from the across the UK. That’s why, when I heard those comments, I felt deeply hurt by them.

“I can’t change who I am and the laws in Qatar are directly attacking people like me.

“Regrettably, there are not many people calling it out, but it deserves a backlash.”

‘Accept our rules’

In an interview on 8 November, Salman made an attempt to address the issue of homosexuality being illegal in the country, claiming LGBTQ+ football fans “have to accept our rules out here”.

He said: “[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.”

Under the country’s horrific LGBTQ+ laws queer people can face up to seven years in prison if convicted, while under Sharia law it is technically possible for men found to have engaged in same-sex relationships to be sentenced to death.

Zander Murray added that the comments will deeply affect potentially closeted LGBTQ+ footballers in Qatar who are having to “pretend about who they are”.

“Some of them will have families there, some will have wives there, maybe some will have boyfriends… But there is no doubt there will be an LGBT player at this World Cup and he will have to hold everything in because there is no alternative,” Zander Murray said.

“What a World Cup brings to any destination is a spotlight. There is huge scrutiny and intense publicity.

“But I hope there will be a ripple effect from this event which will force the lawmakers in Qatar to assess their policies.”

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)

LGBTQ+ football fans have repeatedly raised concerns about visiting Qatar safely for the World Cup, despite FIFA’s reassurances that the event will be “safe and welcoming”.

Qatar’s ambassador to the UK, however, has said that while queer fans can “hold hands”, they 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.”