Qatari Sports Minister Promises ‘Creative’ Solutions For Allowing Gay Fans At World Cup

CREDIT: Associated Press/Osama Faisal

FIFA president Sepp Blatter (right) and Sheik Mohammed bin Hamad al-Thani, chairman of Qatar World Cup committee.

Each passing day brings new twists to old problems surrounding FIFA’s choice to give hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. There are the issues around migrant workers and slow moving labor reforms, corruption and FIFA’s lack of transparency, and the heat, which could pose dangers to workers, fans, and players unless the tournament is moved to winter.

It’s almost enough to bury another glaring problem with putting a World Cup in Qatar: the fact that it isn’t exactly open to accepting LGBT people. Homosexual acts between men, in fact, are a crime in the country.

That has been another source of criticism, and in an interview with the Associated Press this week, Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser al-Ali, Qatar’s sports minister, said that the nation hadn’t yet figured out how to accommodate LGBT people who want to attend the 2022 World Cup. Al-Ali, most notably, compared the LGBT issue to the country’s attempts to figure out how to allow alcoholic beverages at World Cup matches — “It’s exactly like the alcohol question,” he said — saying that Qatar needed to find “creative” solutions to the LGBT question. The AP reports:

He said Qatar doesn’t want to create “this impression, illusion that we don’t care about our tradition and our ethical values … We are studying all these issues. We can adapt, we can be creative to have people coming and enjoying the games without losing the essence of our culture and respecting the preference of the people coming here. I think there is a lot we can do.”

FIFA has shown little concern for how awarding the World Cup to Qatar might affect gay fans, with president Sepp Blatter saying in 2010 that LGBT people who attend the tournament should “should refrain from any sexual activities.” And it isn’t just Qatar, as the 2018 World Cup will take place in Russia, which drew international scorn after it passed anti-gay laws in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics it hosted in Sochi.

Since Sochi, the IOC has added a clause to its bidding application aimed at ensuring that future hosts respect different human rights issues, including, activists hope, LGBT protections. FIFA has shown no willingness to take such action, meaning that absent a “creative” solution like, say, “tolerating LGBT people,” this is just another addition to the list of issues that could turn Qatar’s World Cup into a disaster.