FIFA World Cup 2022: Hosts Qatar caught in LGBTQ+ rights storm after Mohamed Aboutrika's homophobic rant
A year ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022, hosts Qatar has landed themselves in a soup after the tournament's official broadcast beIN Sports screened homophobic comments by the station's best-known sports pundit Mohamed Aboutrika.
A year ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022, hosts Qatar has landed themselves in a soup after the tournament's official broadcast beIN Sports screened homophobic comments by the station's best-known sports pundit Mohamed Aboutrika. In a 2-minute rant, the former Egyptian football star slammed the Premier League's Rainbow Laces campaign, designed to support the LGBTQ+ community, and called homosexuality a phenomenon that is 'against human nature.'
Mohamed Aboutrika, however, did not just stop there. The former Egyptian star, who scored 38 times in 100 appearances for his country, also sparked fury after urging Muslim players to boycott the Premier League campaign. The Rainbow Laces campaign has seen the likes of fellow Egyptian Muslim and Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah participate in a bid to stamp out homophobia in football. Stating that homosexuality is not 'compatible' with Islam, the 43-year-old described it as a 'dangerous idealogy that is becoming nasty' and that people are not ashamed of it anymore. Aboutrika also urged beIN to refuse to show "anything LGBT-related" during its coverage of Premier League games.
Between 2004 and 2014, Mohamed Aboutrika guided Cairo-based club Al-Ahly to seven domestic league titles and five African Champions League triumphs, in which he scored over 150 goals. The Egyptian has also helped his nation clinch the Africa Cup of Nations glory in 2006 and 2008. As a player, Aboutrika often voiced his views on several political issues and supported Egypt's pro-democracy protests that led to Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in 2011. Since 2017, Aboutrika has lived in exile in Doha, where he works as a sports pundit for beIN Sports.
Aboutrika's homophonic rant went live on beIN, the official broadcaster of the English Premier League in the Middle East and North Africa, just a year before Qatar is due to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. The comments remained unchallenged on-air, which sparked an angry backlash forcing beIN to respond. The broadcasters insisted that they represent, champion and support causes and interests of every single background and cultural heritage.
The chief executive of Qatar 2022 said on Tuesday (November 30) told CNN that members of the LGBTQ+ community would be welcome at the World Cup. However, he added that public display of affection is frowned upon, which goes 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," he added.
Last year, Nasser al-Khater assured that rainbow flags promoting LGBTQ+ rights will be allowed in the stadiums for the highly-anticipated tournament, which is set to begin on November 21, 2022, and finish a month later, on December 18. 2022. He said they would comply with all FIFA rules to promote tolerance and inclusion in matches, despite Qatar's strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
"When it comes to the rainbow flags in the stadiums, FIFA have their guidelines; they have their rules and regulations. Whatever they may be, we will respect them," Nasser Al-Khater had said.
It is worth noting that according to a 2020 human rights report on Qatar by the US State Department, LGBTQ+ people in the Arab country 'largely hid their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics due to an underlying pattern of discrimination.'
Mohamed Aboutrika's homophobic comments draw massive backlash
Kick It Out, football's anti-discrimination charity slammed the former Egyptian footballer and offered solidarity to members of the LGBTQ+ community affected by these comments.
In an interview with The Guardian, Chris Paouros, a Kick It Out trustee, expressed disappointment over beIN's decision to air such a hate speech in full on their network. He added that as the official broadcaster of the Qatar World Cup 2022, the network's willingness to amplify homophobia raises questions on the safety of LGBTQ+ fans and player travelling to Qatar for the showpiece event.
Meanwhile, another anti-discriminatory network in football, Fare, questioned why others did not challenge Aboutrika's comments while the show was being played on-air. In a tweet, the organisation said they were disappointed to see the Egyptian legend dismiss the Premier League's Rainbow Laces campaign. The tweet added, "No challenge from beIN Sports. He was given space to deny the rights and existence of a community."
According to Premier League's website, the Rainbow Laces campaign aims to promote "equality and diversity" by "showing support for all LGBT+ people in football and beyond". Players across all teams back the initiative by wearing rainbow-coloured laces.
The Premier League, meanwhile, has wholeheartedly disagreed with Aboutrika's comments. A league spokesperson added, "The Premier League and its clubs are committed to supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion and making clear football is for everyone."