Qatar is a mistake,’ says former FIFA President Sepp Blatter
A Qatar World Cup ambassador has told German television broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality was “damage in the mind”, as the Gulf state prepares to host the global tournament in less than two weeks.
In an interview filmed in Doha and to be screened later on Tuesday, former Qatari international Khalid Salman addressed the issue of homosexuality, which is illegal in the conservative Muslim country.
Some soccer players have raised concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the event, especially LGBT+ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against. The country expects more than one million visitors for the World Cup.
“They have to accept our rules here,” Salman said, in an interview excerpt.
“(Homosexuality) is haram. You know what haram (forbidden) means?,” he said.
When asked why it was haram, Salman said: “I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind,”
The interview was then immediately stopped by an accompanying official. When contacted by Reuters, Qatar’s World Cup organisers declined to comment. The World soccer’s ruling body FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
Organisers have repeatedly said everyone was welcome in Qatar during the World Cup. Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup but the small nation has come under intense pressure in recent years for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
The country’s human rights record has led to calls for teams and officials to boycott the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament.
Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup hosting rights in 2010, told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger “Qatar is a mistake,” adding that “the choice was bad,”
The Qatar decision has been marred by controversy, including allegations of corruption and human rights violations since it was first announced.
Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, has also been embroiled in accusations of corruption during his tenure. He was cleared of fraud by a Swiss court in June. The prosecutors have appealed the ruling.
“It is too small of a country. Football and the World Cup are too big for it,” Blatter said of Qatar, the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament.
He said FIFA in 2012, amended the criteria it used to select host countries in light of concerns over the working conditions at tournament-related construction sites in Qatar.
“Since then, social considerations and human rights are taken into account,” he said. Blatter said he will be watching the tournament from his home in Zurich.
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