Alex Blaze

What about gay soccer fans at Qatari World Cup?

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 14, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: football game, Middle East, Qatar, soccer, sodomy, travel

Several gay groups have complained about the FIFA World Cup planned for 2022, and the FIFA president has responded:

qatar_rel95.jpgBlatter said that homosexual fans "should refrain from any sexual activities" that are illegal in Qatar.[...]

"It's another culture and another religion, but in football we have no boundaries," said Blatter, who was in South Africa for the official closing of the 2010 World Cup. "We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings, being on this side or that side, left or right or whatever.

"Football is a game that does not affect any discrimination. You may be assured ... if people want to watch a match in Qatar in 2022, they will be admitted to matches."

It's the perennial battle between social liberalism and fundamentalism: should non-liberal groups and societies be afforded the benefits of liberalism, even if they'd use them to end liberalism itself? Should the KKK have free speech rights, considering their history using terror to silence others for over a century? Do doctors have an obligation to perform abortions for anti-choice activists?

And should concerns about openness lead us to tolerate a government that's decidedly intolerant of sexual minorities?

The first thing to remember, before any of us gets on a high horse here, is that this wouldn't be the first FIFA World Cup held in a place that bans sodomy. The first World Cup in 1930 was hosted by Uruguay, which decriminalized sodomy four years later. Chile hosted in 1962, but their sodomy law was repealed in 1998. England hosted in 1966, when sodomy would still be illegal in the UK for another year.

Most recently and closest to us, the US hosted in 1994 when several states still banned homosexuality, including three World Cup host states: Michigan, Texas, and Florida. Before considering what Westerners should be doing now, we should consider what other major soccer-loving countries that had already legalized homosexuality (like most of Europe and Latin America) should have done then.

Would a boycott of the US World Cup by LGBT fans have changed much? Personally, I would have loved for someone to have made a stink about this back in 1994 and at least gotten those three states off the roster. At least it would have gotten people thinking.

Then again, as far as I can remember or tell by searching online, no one did. Where were the people at that time advocating FIFA at least boycott states that still banned homosexuality? Did other countries let us off the hook here because we a wealthy, predominantly white, Western nation, or were things so different all over the world back in 1994 that no one could fathom international outcry over the way gays were treated?

It's hard to compare Qatar today to the US in 1994 for a variety of reasons, one of the biggest being that I can't find statistics on how often Qatar's sodomy law is used to prosecute someone. Moreover, lots can change in the twelve coming years. It's easy to think of cultures, especially those that aren't democratic, as static, but twelve years is a long time and the scrutiny that Qatar will face now might push them to change.

Anyway, I also noticed in that article that Qatar bans alcohol and that the president of FIFA didn't have much to say about that. I was in a World Cup town back in 2006 completely by accident and it seemed like the sport came second to the partying for many of the spectators. Imagine New Orleans going dry; how many people would show up for Mardi Gras?

Apparently Qatar requires a permit to buy alcohol:

To obtain an alcohol permit you need a letter from your employer written in English. This must be signed and stamped by an authorised person in your company and be addressed to the Qatar Distribution Company. It must state the applicant's position, basic salary (must be above 4000 riyals or 1100 dollars, and the letter must use the word basic), state if an accommodation entitlement is received or if the applicant receives free accommodation and whether the applicant is married. The applicant must also provide their ID/passport and residence permit (photocopies are acceptable) and a 1000 riyal (275 dollar) returnable deposit. You also have to complete an application form, and state your religion.

It also seems like Qatar has a problem with slavery:

Qatar is a destination for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan, Thailand, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and China voluntarily travel to Qatar as laborers and domestic servants, but some subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude. These conditions include bonded labor; job switching; withholding of pay; charging workers for benefits for which the employer is responsible; restrictions on freedom of movement, including the confiscation of passports and travel documents and the withholding of exit permits; arbitrary detention; threats of legal action and deportation; false charges; and physical, mental and sexual abuse. Nepali and Indian men are reportedly recruited for work in Qatar as domestic servants, but are then coerced or forced into labor in Saudi Arabia as farm workers. Qatar is also a destination for women from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, India, Africa, and Eastern Europe for prostitution, but it is unknown how many are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of Qatar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Provisions of the Sponsorship Law condone forced labor activities and slave-like conditions. In addition, Qatar failed to enforce criminal laws against traffickers, lacks an effective victim identification mechanism to identify and protect victims, continues to detain and deport the large majority of victims rather than providing them with protection, and sometimes penalized workers who complained about working conditions or non-payment of wages.

Blatter had this to say about slavery in soccer, just two years ago:

"I think in football there's too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere.

If he has that kind of sympathy for people making over $100,000 a week who are completely free to leave that job and be replaced by any of the dozens of people waiting to take their place, I wonder what he'll say about the actual slaves in Qatar if someone points that out to him.

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A lot can happen in twelve years, and I can't imagine that support for LGBT human rights won't increase exponentially by the time the 2022 World Cup rolls around. Let's see what happens then.

There are many issues we could protest about regarding Qatar.

OTOH, with much of the world subscribing to rampant anti-Arab and anti-muslim racism, we must balance our positions with the potential lessening of Arab-ophobia and Islamophobia that this chance for enjoyable international interaction might bring.

And the saying is that, when in Rome do as the Romans do. So if the Qatari law says you need to keep your dick in your pants, then I personally would recommend that you do so.

I would imagine people would just stay home instead of doing that, even if they wouldn't have had sex in Qatar anyway.

But in terms of sheer numbers, the alcohol will probably do more to keep people home than the homosexuality. I just can't imagine these people paying money to travel to a country to watch soccer matches without alcohol.