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World Cup boss tells gay footballer Josh Cavallo ‘nobody feels unsafe’ in homophobic Qatar

·3-min read

The chief executive of the World Cup has responded to gay Australian footballer Josh Cavallo’s after he said he would be “scared” to play in Qatar due to it’s cruel anti-gay laws.

Cavallo, the only openly gay top-flight professional footballer in the world, spoke to The Guardian in November 2021 about his concerns around travelling to Qatar for the tournament as it is illegal to be gay in the country, and punishable by imprisonment and death in some circumstances.

“I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that,” said Cavallo who famously came out in an emotional video on social media earlier this year.

“And that saddens me. At the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country, and to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate – is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?”

In reaction to these comments, Al Khater, the chief executive of the tournament in Qatar spoke to CNN to say Josh Cavallo need not have fear about entering the country. “We welcome him here in the state of Qatar, we welcome him to come and see, even prior to the World Cup,” he expressed.

“Nobody feels threatened here, nobody feels unsafe here.” In contrast to Khater’s comments, in 2019 Qatar ranked as the second most dangerous country in the world for queer people to travel to according to a well-regarded ‘danger index‘ compiled by LGBT+ travellers.

“I think, unfortunately, maybe he’s getting this perception because of reading a lot of these accusations or reading a lot of these news stories that shine a negative light,” the chief executive continued. “Qatar is like any other society in this world. Everyone is welcome.

“Listen, public display of affection is frowned upon, and that goes across the board – across the board. Qatar is a modest country. That’s all that needs to be respected. Other than that, everyone is free to live their life.

“They [gay people] will be coming to Qatar as fans of a football tournament. They can do whatever any other human being would do. What I’m saying is Qatar, from a public-display-of-affection factor, is conservative.”

Under Sharia law in Qatar homosexuals are subject to the death penalty though human rights reports have suggested there is no record of any gay person being executed for this offence to date.

“And no matter how much the state of Qatar puts forward, in terms of really accelerating progress, that’s never captured, and that’s never reflected and that’s not ever something that’s communicated,” Khater concluded.

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