Gay Soccer Fans Warned Off Sex
Gay soccer fans thinking about attending the World Cup in Qatar in twelve years were jokingly warned off any plans to have sex while in that nation by the head of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
FIFA officials determined on Dec. 2 that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup match. When asked whether he had any concerns over cultural conflicts between the nation, a monarchy where Islamic law holds sway, and gay Western soccer fans, FIFA president Sepp Blatter quipped that gays heading to the event "should refrain from any sexual activities" while in Qatar, reported the BBC on Dec. 14. Blatter then said that because the sport transcends national and cultural boundaries, he foresaw "no problems" in 2022.
"You see in the Middle East the opening of this culture, it’s another culture because it’s another religion, but in football we have no boundaries," said Blatter, reported British newspaper the Guardian on Dec. 14. "We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings be it on this side or that side, be it left, right or whatever."
But Blatter’s paean to unity through sports was forgotten in light of his jocular initial response, which instantly sparked outrage and led to calls for Blatter to apologize or to step down. Openly gay retired NBA athlete John Amaeche slammed the comment, saying, "The position adopted regarding LGBT fans who would pay the enormous ticket and travel prices to attend the World Cup in 2022 should have been wholly unacceptable a decade ago. Instead, with little more than an afterthought, FIFA has endorsed the marginalization of LGBT people around the world.
"Anything less than a full reversal of his position is unacceptable and if the FA and football and sporting associations around the world fail to acknowledge this insult, they too will be complicit," added Amaeche. "If sport can not serve to change society, even temporarily during the duration of an event like the World Cup that invites the world to participate, then it is little more than grown men chasing a ball and we should treat it as such."
Amaeche told the BBC in a radio interview that Blatter’s comment was "absurd," the BBC article reported. The American basketball star, who is the American=born son of an English mother and a Nigerian father, went on to denounce the comment in the context of a recent U.N. vote that removed protections for gays from a resolution condemning extralegal executions. Amaeche also pointed to GLBT youth as a population vulnerable to anti-gay commentary, even if made in jest.
"It’s not about people having sex in public and being sanctioned for it, it’s the fact that Qatar was one of 79 countries to sanction executing gays at the United Nations," Amaeche said, going on to register displeasure at "the giggling of grown men, sports reporters, and members of FIFA, on this issue," and noting that, "when asked a perfectly simple and reasonable question given the worries about Qatar... the whole room burst into laughter. It is the most childish response I could imagine."
Added the basketball legend, "You have to understand that this story is big enough, [Blatter’s] influence is big enough, to impact young people in school, people in workplaces, anybody who is perceived to be gay or is gay, [who] hears these comments and once again realizes that the seat of power--straight white men normally--are very, very clearly uncomfortable with this issue, and certainly not interested in taking it seriously."
The choice of Qatar for the 2022 championship series signifies the first time the World Cup will be hosted in the Middle East, the BBC noted. Concerns about the climate, as well as Islamic law--the consumption of alcohol is forbidden--had also been raised, but the issue of gay fans was particularly sensitive because some Islamic nations punish homosexuality severely.