FIFA President Sepp Blatter sparked outrage Tuesday commenting on World Cup 2022 host Qatar's laws on homosexuality. When a reporter asked for Blatter's response to gay soccer fans who might be afraid to attend the tournament in a country where homosexuality is illegal, Blatter quipped that gay fans traveling to Qatar for the World Cup in 2022 should probably "refrain from any sexual activities." Blatter quickly clarified: "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." Nevertheless, a video clip of the interview, which starts with his apparent joke, spread among gay rights groups--who did not find it funny.
FIFA has already received complaints from former British NBA player John Amaechi and the Gay Football Support Network, among others. According to the Manchester Evening News, Amaechi reacted to Blatter's response by saying "if sport cannot 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." GFSN Chair Chris Basiurski called for Blatter to either retract his statement and apologize or resign from his position.
Bloggers are likewise unimpressed. For example: SoSoGay blogger Andy Wasley also reprimands Blatter and questions FIFA's decision to hold the World Cup in country with such a shaky human rights record. He writes:
Qatar is not going to relax its draconian laws for the sake of a handful of gay fans. Attending the World Cup in 2022 means having to sacrifice personal freedom or face harsh punishment, which is a profoundly unfair condition to impose upon any fan. FIFA's hosting decisions were outrageous; it's clear that the man at the top should be speaking up for the countless gay people who have practically been excluded from attending and enjoying one of the world's most exciting sporting events. Blatter should be thoroughly ashamed of his little 'joke'--and FIFA should be asking if he is really the right man to challenge football's enduringly shameful record on gay rights.
Watch the video of Blatter's comment below:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.