World Cup: Pitch invader waving Pride flag and wearing ‘Save Ukraine’ top interrupts match

The Qatar World Cup pitch invader runs across the pitch, holding a Pride flag like a cape

A hero with a rainbow Pride flag stormed the pitch at the Qatar World Cup match between Portugal and Uruguay on Monday (28 November).

The pitch invader wore a Superman shirt which read “save Ukraine” on the front, and “respect for Iranian women” on the back.

Like a true superhero, he held out his Pride flag above his head and ran across the pitch as he was chased by security, stopping play in the 50th minute of the game.

He was eventually caught and tackled to the ground, before being led away, with the referee having to pick up the discarded Pride flag.

The man was later identified as Mario Ferri Falco, 35, an Italian activist and footballer, according to the Evening Standard.

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The Qatar World Cup pitch invader waves a pride flag in the air, he is shown from behind, his t-shirt reads "respect for Iranian women"
The man’s t-shirt read “respect for Iranian women” on the back. (AFP via Getty/ Pablo Morano)

Falco has a history of political pitch invasions, including at the Club World Cup final between Inter Milan and Mazembe in Abu Dhabi in 2010, where he demanded the release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who had been sentenced to death by stoning. He was eventually released.

In 2014, he invaded a Brazil World Cup game between Belgium and the USA, telling the stadium: “Save favelas children.”

This year, he helped around 60 refugees escape Ukraine at the Polish border.

In Qatar, his statement received cheers from the crowd, as being LGBTQ+ is illegal in the country.

Under Qatar’s Penal Code 2004 queer people can be jailed for up to seven years if convicted of having sex, and under Sharia law, homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty.

Despite the assurances of FIFA, fans wearing rainbow colours or displaying Pride flags have been hounded by security at the World Cup in Qatar.

Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley tweeted: “Thank you to Mario Ferri, for flying the Pride flag on a World Cup pitch, for standing with Iranian women, for standing with the people of Ukraine.

“LGBTQ+ Qataris exist and they matter. LGBTQ+ people exist everywhere in the world, and we all matter.”

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