An American journalist claims he was stopped and detained by officials in Qatar after trying to enter one of the World Cup venues wearing a rainbow t-shirt.
Former Sports Illustrated journalist Grant Wahl, who now has his own website, was attending USA's opening group match against Wales, which ended in a 1-1 draw at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.
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Wahl was wearing the pride-themed t-shirt in support of the LGBTQIA+ community, in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.
The sports journalist said World Cup security denied him entry to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium and asked him to take his shirt off.
“One of the security guards told me they were just trying to protect me from fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt,” Wahl said about the incident.
I’m OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal. Am in the media center, still wearing my shirt. Was detained for nearly half an hour. Go gays 🌈 https://t.co/S3INBoCz89
— Subscribe to GrantWahl.com (@GrantWahl) November 21, 2022
The American journalist said his phone was also taken away by officials after he had tweeted about the incident.
"I'm OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal," Wahl wrote on Twitter.
He said a security commander later approached him, apologised and allowed him into the venue. He also later received an apology from a representative of world football's governing body, FIFA.
A Wales LGBTQIA+ fan group also reported that female fans had their rainbow-designed bucket hats removed by security as they attempted to enter the stadium with them.
It comes after seven European football associations were forced to abandon plans for their players to wear 'One Love' armbands during matches at the World Cup, following a FIFA threat that they would be sanctioned with yellow cards during games for doing so.
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) November 21, 2022
Teams backflip on armband plans
The seven captains - including Harry Kane from England and Gareth Bale of Wales - had planned to wear 'One Love' armbands at the World Cup in Qatar, a nation where same-sex relations are illegal. The captains wanted to wear the armbands to promote inclusion and diversity in football and society.
But under a FIFA edict delivered on Monday, the captains were told they would receive yellow cards if they went ahead with wearing the armbands during games. That sparked a backdown at the 11th hour and the armbands will not be worn.
Kane, Bale and the Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk were due to wear the OneLove armbands in Monday's games. The captains of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark were also expected to wear them in coming days.
But the seven European federations released a joint statement after the FIFA edict, saying they would not wear the armbands.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband,” the statement read.
“However we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play. We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented.”
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand was among the many to criticise the backdown from the seven nations, with some critics even labelling the football associations "cowards" for the backflip.
"First bump in the road and they have folded like a pack of cards," Ferdinand told the BBC.
Liverpool-based writer Daniel Austin said: “The One Love armband was a pretty empty gesture anyway, but now all of these nations have completely shat the bed at the first sign of inconvenience.
“Protest isn’t protest if it’s without risk. You either really want to make a stand for people who need it, or you don’t. Cowards.”
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