Qatar welcomes transgender and gay fans to 2022 FIFA World Cup

2022 FIFA World Cup, Transgender and gay fans, Qatar, Homosexuality, Nasser al-Khater, Al-Janoub stadium
Security personnel in Qatar is going through special training to ensure things that are culturally different are handled in that frame. Illustration: Prathap Ravishankar

The 2022 FIFA World Cup might see transgender and gay fans supporting their favourite teams as special arrangements are being made to welcome them for the high-profile football event.

Chief executive of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Nasser al-Khater stressed that visitors would have to respect Qatari customs.

Homosexual acts are banned in Qatar but the law around transgender people is unclear and the issue is seldom addressed in public life or by the authorities.

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“I would like to assure any fan, of any gender, (sexual) orientation, religion, race to rest assured that Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world — and they’ll all be welcome here,” said Khater.

While responding to media questions on Wednesday (September 25) at Al-Janoub stadium in Doha about the position of transgender fans who might want to attend the tournament but are unclear what legal and human rights protections they’ll have, Khater said safety and security of every fan is the first priority.

“The safety and security of every single fan is of the utmost importance to us,” Khater said, adding that he expected “a little over one million fans” to visit Qatar during the tournament.

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He further said that security personnel is going through special training to ensure things that are culturally different are handled in that frame.

Gulf region has always been conservative when it comes to the LGBT issues and so is the case in Qatar. Since the public display of affection is not a part of the gulf culture, it frowned upon.

“Public displays of affection is frowned upon, it’s not part of our culture — but that goes across the board to everybody,” Khater said.

A website that published a story in 2016 by an anonymous Qatari author about being gay, later went briefly went offline in the emirate.

The official made sure to clear all doubts of the fans and said, “Qatar is a conservative country, a modest country. Alcohol is not part of our culture — however, hospitality is.”

Possibility of altercations

“Alcohol is obviously available here, but it’s not as readily available as in some other parts of the world,” he said. “For the World Cup, we want to make sure it’s accessible for fans that travel from abroad and want to have a drink. We’re trying to find designated locations to have alcohol other than traditional locations.”

Currently, alcohol consumption for non-residents is restricted to bars and restaurants in a few dozen luxury hotels and a pint of beer typically sells for more than $10.

Asked about the risk of fans becoming drunk and disorderly and how security forces would respond, Nasser said that “as long as people are happy, that’s fine”. It is a crime to be drunk in public in Qatar.

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“As long as they’re not miserable and too upset, we don’t have any issues,” said Khater.

“But we do have plans for that, our security teams have been working very closely with the authorities… in various countries that have teams that traditionally qualify to the World Cup.”

Nasser said that while he believed hooliganism was declining worldwide, organisers were aware that Qatar presented a different policing challenge to the last two hosts.

“Hooliganism in World Cups has decreased drastically. We saw Russia, no problems whatsoever. Brazil there wasn’t hooliganism, per se. There were other issues that were pertaining to Brazil,” he said.

“We are a small country but we have the numbers necessary to keep the World Cup safe. What we’ve seen here is the possibility of altercations between fans because of the size of the country, and a lot of fans being in the same vicinity,” he added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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