Southgate insists England's focus is on football amid Qatar LGBT row

Southgate insists England's focus is on football amid Qatar LGBT row

Gareth Southgate insists England’s focus is on the football amid growing row over Qatar’s authoritarian crackdown on pro-LGBT fans at World Cup – as Wales football chiefs hold crisis talks with FIFA

  • Qatar accused of stopping female football fans wearing rainbow bucket hats at the Wales vs USA match
  • US sports journalist Grant Wahl was refused entry to a World Cup match in Qatar over a rainbow T-shirt
  • Security guards ‘aggressively demanded’ he remove his top, claiming it was for his own safety in the stadium
  • A Qatari academic praised the actions of the guards and slammed ‘westerners’, saying he is ‘proud’ of actions
  • Gay relationships are illegal in Qatar but FIFA allowed rainbow flags and clothing allowed for fans at games 
  • But captains who wear the rainbow armbands threatened with bookings – with Harry Kane deciding against 
  • Visitors have been urged to respect Qatar’s conservative society and customs including modest clothing 
  • Are you in Qatar? Have you been spoken to by the authorities? Email
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Gareth Southgate today tried to move on from the rainbow armband row and ‘focus on the football’ as Qatar’s conservative regime clamped down on pro-LGBT football fans with rainbow bucket hats, T-shirts and flags.

England’s manager said the failure to secure FIFA approval for Harry Kane to wear the ‘OneLove’ captain’s armband prior to the match against Iran yesterday had been a concern and there are ‘lessons to be learned’ from the controversy.

But he added: ‘I didn’t want anything distracting the players. There’s been a huge amount of talk around us, which is understandable. If we can help raise awareness of other issues then we want to do that and we will always try to do that, but of course we’re here to try and take our supporters on a great journey again.’

He told talkSPORT’s World Cup daily podcast: ‘I was a bit concerned that approval hadn’t been given and I think there are lessons to be learned from that, if I’m honest. But we had to focus on the football’.

Harry Kane did not wear his ‘One Love’ armband during England’s game against Iran because of the threat of a yellow card after orders from the FA. The England captain had previously said he was determined to put it on, and was accused of ‘bottling it’.

On the sidelines former England footballer Alex Scott, now a BBC broadcaster, wore the armband during a live broadcast. Harry Redknapp had his say and declared today: ‘I just want to get on and enjoy the football. If you feel that strongly don’t play or don’t go’.

The farcical row over Harry Kane and other captains facing a ban from the pitch for wearing a rainbow armband has spilled over to the stadiums of Doha.

Last night former Wales captain Laura McAllister was among female football fans who were ‘told to take off their rainbow bucket hats’ at the Qatari stadium ahead of the Dragons’ first match. Men, however, were allowed to keep them on.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) is delivering evidence to FIFA during crisis talks later today. 

A spokesman said: ‘The Football Association of Wales (FAW) were extremely disappointed by reports that members of Y Wal Goch, which included FAW staff members, were asked to remove and discard their Rainbow Wall bucket hats before entry to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. These bucket hats were created in partnership with the FAW.

‘The FAW has collated information on these alleged incidents and will be addressing this matter directly with Fifa today’

US football reporter Grant Wahl was stopped by security at the same match and ordered to take off his rainbow T-shirt. He refused and the Qatari officials questioned him before they eventually backed down. One security guard told him that they were protecting him from fans inside who might’ve attacked him for wearing the shirt.

FIFA has made it clear that rainbows on clothing and flags is not prohibited in stadiums – but have acted to prevent protests on the pitch. Organisers of the Qatar World Cup and Qatari cultural groups have also urged visitors to respect their customs and religious rules. These including no drinking or swearing in public, wearing modest clothes and no public displays of affection. LGBT people are criminalised and they have also faced discrimination and violence.

Gareth Southgate (today in Doha) tried to move on from the rainbow armband row and ‘focus on the football’

Former Wales captain Laura McAllister was among female football fans who were ‘told to take off their rainbow bucket hats’ at the Qatari stadium ahead of the Dragons’ first match with the US last night

US sports journalist Grant Wahl (pictured) was initially refused entry to a World Cup match in Doha, Qatar and had security guards ‘aggressively demand’ he remove his rainbow shirt. He was told it was for his own safety

Fans (pictured yesterday) have been urged to cover up and wear modest clothing at the World Cup 

FIFA says team captains could face a booking and potential suspension if they go through with a decision to wear the OneLove rainbow armband (pictured, England captain Harry Kane). Alex Scott decided to wear it on live TV instead

Argentina fans get in the mood before the FIFA World Cup 2022 match at Lusail Stadium

Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1 today in one of the biggest shocks at the World Cup in history

Supporters of Argentina soak up the sunshine and atmosphere ahead of kick off with Saudi Arabia

Wales’ Rainbow Wall, a group of LGBTQ+ supporters, said male supporters wearing the hats were allowed to keep them but the accessories were taken from women

England may have backed down but BBC presenter Alex Scott defied Fifa’s ban on the rainbow armband as she broadcast from pitchside yesterday.

It was decided at the eleventh hour that England captain Harry Kane would no longer wear the anti-discrimination and LGBT rights symbol against Iran following pressure from football’s governing body.

But BBC pundit Miss Scott took the opportunity to wear the OneLove armband pitchside yesterday at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha during the build up to the England game.

Miss Scott, a former England international with 140 caps, has been a vocal critic of Qatar’s treatment of LGBT people and the country’s human rights record.

‘And once again we reference Infantino from what he said: you are not gay, you will never understand travelling to a country where you are fearing for your life just because of your preference of who you choose to love,’ she said during the coverage of the opening game of the tournament on Sunday.

‘To keep saying that football is for everyone, that’s what he keeps feeding us with, but we sit here and it’s not [for everyone] because people have not been able to travel to watch their team and support their team out of fear.’

She insisted it would have been easy to boycott the tournament and that she went to the World Cup in Qatar because she wants to have the ‘harder conversations’.

Miss Scott said: ‘Actually I’ve had conversations saying, ‘I should be staying at home, I should be boycotting’ and I thought long and hard about it. I think for me personally that would have been the easy option to do just that.

‘I’m here because I love my job and, when I think about it, sitting here and having the harder conversations: we’re talking about the migrant workers, LGBTQ+ community, we’re talking about women’s rights.

‘You think about four years ago, I was the first female pundit for the BBC at a World Cup. You think how far we’ve moved in four years. Let’s hope, in the next four years, we’re never having to have these conversations again.’

Former England captain Rio Ferdinand hit out at the decision of teams to not wear the rainbow armband accusing the countries of ‘folding like a pack of cards’ following a bit of pressure.


It comes as England captain Harry Kane revealed he had no say in the decision to scrap plans to wear a ‘One Love’ armband in their game against Iran. 

The bucket hat has become the must-have accessory for Wales fans over the past decade.

The yellow, green and red hats are worn in their thousands by the so-called ‘Red Wall’, with a rainbow version also produced.

Wales’ Rainbow Wall wrote: ‘Our rainbow bucket hat. We are so proud of them, but news on the ground tonight is our welsh female supporters wearing them in Qatar are having them taken off them, not the men, just women.

‘@Fifacom are you serious !! #LGBTQRights.’

A US supporter was also threatened on the Metro travelling to the stadium for carrying a small rainbow flag.

The aggressor, who appeared to be a Qatar supporter, threatened to ‘kill’ the man, and said the flag ‘was not allowed’ and ‘that flag is banned in this country’.

‘We have our own culture’, he added.

Wales and US fans, as well as Qatari security guards, intervened to protect the fan carrying the flag, which is a symbol of LGBTQ+ rights and pride.

Wales, along with England and other European nations, earlier confirmed they would not be wearing the anti-discrimination One Love rainbow armbands after governing body Fifa threatened sporting sanctions.

Dyfrig Hills, a 32-year-old teacher from North Wales, said he was ‘disappointed’ that Fifa had effectively banned the armbands.

Speaking outside a hotel in Doha where around 1,900 Wales fans gathered before the US game, he said: ‘I’m really disappointed to be honest, I’m disappointed for the countries wanting to wear them and I’m disappointed in Fifa for doing what they’ve done.

‘Also slightly at the associations because I thought they’d still stand up for what we believe in.’

His friend Gareth Dixon, 32, who is a teacher in Qatar, said: ‘I’ve lived here for five years and the change in that time is immeasurable, particularly in terms of the infrastructure.

‘It’s a developing country at the end of the day but I’ve seen the news at home and if I still lived in the UK I’d be angry at what’s happening and saying the same things.’

The two men were holding a sign that read ‘Llywelyn, Glyndwr, Ramsay’, the third name referring to Aaron Ramsay who they claimed was ‘the true Prince of Wales’.

‘Bale gets a lot of the adoration, we think Ramsay deserves some, especially with his blonde hair,’ Mr Hills said.

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, said Welsh players would continue to speak out about the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

He said: ‘Welsh players have spoken out, they have spoken out in interviews. The Football Association (of Wales) itself has been absolutely rock solid in saying that they are here to speak up for the values that matter to people in Wales, to human rights, the rights of LGBTQ+ people as well.

‘The fact that they have done that so solidly, I don’t think there’s any reason to imagine that they won’t want to go on doing that.’

McAllister, now a professor at Cardiff University, told ITV News that security guards said her hat was ‘a banned symbol’, however she managed to sneak it through in her handbag

She said: ‘I pointed out that FIFA had made lots of comments about supporting LGBT rights in this tournament, and said to them that coming from a nation where we’re very passionate about equality for all people, I wasn’t going to take my hat off’

She also wrote on Twitter : ‘So, despite fine words from @FIFAWorldCup before event, @Cymru rainbow bucket hats confiscated at stadium, mine included’

The bucket hat has become the must-have accessory for Wales fans over the past decade (pictured in the stands for the match against the US)

Qatari academic Dr Nayef bin Nahar (pictured) praised the security guards for refusing Wahl entry before slamming ‘westerners’

A Qatari academic has slammed an American sports journalist who faced hostility from security guards for wearing a rainbow shirt to a World Cup match in the Gulf State.

Grant Wahl donned a shirt that featured a soccer ball with the colours of the rainbow in support of the LGBTQ community when he tried to enter Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan for the United States versus Wales match on Monday.

But he was instantly stopped by guards at the stadium’s media entrance who ‘aggressively demanded’ he take off his shirt. He claimed one guard told him: ‘You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.’ 

The incident led to international uproar – but was defended by outspoken Qatari academic Dr Nayef bin Nahar, who said he was ‘proud of what happened’ and argued that Western values are not ‘universal’. 

Dr Al-Shammari, the director of the Ibn Khaldon Center for Humanities and Social Sciences at Qatar University, tweeted: ‘I don’t know when will the westerners realize that their values aren’t universal. 

‘There are other cultures with different values that should be equally respected. Let’s not forget that the West is not the spokesperson for humanity.’

Mr Wahl described his ordeal on Twitter earlier this week, sharing a picture of himself standing outside a World Cup stadium. 

‘Just now: Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales,’ he wrote.

The US journalist said a guard then ‘forcibly ripped’ his phone from his hands after he sent out the tweet.

He waited outside the stadium for the next half an hour as the guards continued pressing him to remove his shirt.

‘One security guard told me that my shirt was ‘political’ and not allowed. Another continually refused to give me back my phone. Another guard yelled at me as he stood above me – I was sitting on a chair by now – that I had to remove my shirt,’ he wrote.

Wahl continually refused to remove his shirt and said it wasn’t ‘political’.

‘Eventually, the guards made me stand up, turn around and face the CCTV camera above us,’ Wahl added. 

A security commander approached Wahl, apologised and allowed him to enter the stadium.

As he left the guards, one told him that security were only protecting him from fans inside who might’ve attacked him for wearing the shirt.

Wahl was trying to attend the United States vs Wales match at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar but was denied entry

Security guards outside the stadium ordered Wahl to remove the shirt and ripped his phone out of his hands after he sent out a tweet (pictured, security outside Al Bayt Stadium)

FIFA has claimed that rainbow flags and clothing would be allowed at World Cup matches.

Many backed Wahl in the comments section and were outraged over the treatment he received.

A rainbow on your clothing is not allowed? The entire ‘opening ceremony’ was about ‘Tolerance & Respect’ What’s going to happen when Teams Wear Rainbow arm bands?’ questioned one. 

Another used said: ‘This country should absolutely not be hosting. FIFA should be ashamed.’ 

‘Quick reminder…Qatar agreed to allow rainbow symbols as part of their agreement with FIFA,’ wrote a third.  

Another added: ‘Putting someone in prison for being who they are is not culture. It’s just barbaric.’

‘I’d respect all other parts of your culture 100% even if I don’t agree with them. But if you want to host a ‘WORLD’ cup be prepared to welcome the world.’

Some social media users told Wahl that he should ‘respect’ Qatar’s culture and rules.

Security eventually let the sports journalist into the stadium after he was detained for more than half an hour (pictured, a security guard outside a Doha hotel)

The controversial confrontation is the latest in a series of scandals that have plagued this year’s World Cup.

Despite allowing rainbow flags in crowds, FIFA says team captains could face a booking and potential suspension if they go through with a decision to wear the OneLove rainbow armband in a mark of solidarity for the LGBT+ community.

Captains of nine European nations, including USA’s Group B rivals England’s Harry Kane and Wales’ Gareth Bale, were planning to wear the One Love armbands promoting inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar.

England and six European nations since confirmed they will not wear the OneLove armbands in Qatar after FIFA threatened sporting sanctions for those wearing it.

England’s FA had expected a fine for breaching FIFA’s statutes but the prospect of Kane being booked, and hence facing a suspension, was a scenario English football’s governing body were concerned about.

The Three Lions’ talismanic striker did not don the armband in their opening game against Iran in the US’s Group B.

FIFA has strict rules about apparel that can be worn by players and the armband is not allowed under the code.

Captains of nine European nations were planning to wear the armbands in a mark of solidarity for the LGBT+ community

Same sex relationships are illegal in Qatar. Male homosexuality is punishable by a prison sentence and same-sex marriages are not recognised by the government. 

The country has received heavy criticism from other nations for its questionable human rights record including its treatment of gay people and women in the lead up to the global sporting event.

Qatar has also been blasted over the deaths of thousands of migrant workers who endured poor working conditions.

Data revealed 6500 migrant workers from countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died on construction sites in Qatar since it was announced the country won the right to host the event in 2010. 

Iranians celebrate LOSING to England in the World Cup – with one fan riding even through Tehran with the Union Flag: Defeat is seen as a slap in the face for hated regime

Iranian football fans are openly cheering the defeat of their national team against England at the World Cup yesterday in yet another sign of protest at the authoritarian Islamic Republic. 

Footage emerged overnight of a man sitting on the back of a moped, brandishing a huge Union Jack which streamed behind him as he rode through the streets of Tehran in the wake of his team’s 6-2 dismantling in Qatar.

‘People are happy because of England’s victory,’ the man who filmed the spectacle from his car said solemnly.

Elsewhere in the Iranian capital, thousands of people packed into residential high rises could be heard whistling and cheering as their team were routed, while another clip – blurred to protect the identity of those involved – showed protesters dancing in celebration following the defeat.

Such open disdain for Iran’s footballing campaign comes as widespread protests continue to rock the nation following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody last month. 

‘The protest movement has overshadowed the football,’ said Kamran, a linguistics professor who lives in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran. ‘I want Iran to lose these games.’

Anusha, a 17-year-old whose Tehran high school has been rocked by protests, said the past few weeks of unrest had changed everything for her.

‘A few months ago I would have said of course I want Iran to win against England and America,’ she said. ‘Now, it’s strange. I really don’t care.’

Even as Iran’s national team perform on the world stage in Qatar, Iranian security forces continue to brutalise protesters. 

More than 400 civilians are thought to have been killed since protests began in late September, with many more injured and arrested.

Iranian football fans are celebrating their national team’s heavy defeat to England at the World Cup

The man brandished a huge Union Jack from the back of his moped. The man filming the spectacle can be heard saying: ‘People are happy because of England’s victory’

Elsewhere in the Iranian capital, thousands of people packed into residential high rises could be heard whistling and cheering as their team were routed

One clip, blurred seemingly to protect the identity of those involved, showed protesters dancing in celebration following the defeat

(L-R) Morteza Pouraliganji, Milad Mohammadi and Roozbeh Cheshmi of Iran are pictured ahead of yesterday’s match vs. England. Iran’s players refused to sing the national anthem

Iran’s national team had signalled support for demonstrations taking place back home ahead of yesterday’s game, but made a bold statement by refusing to sing the anthem before the match

England dismantled Iran, routing them 6-2 in the opening game of their World Cup campaign yesterday (Marcus Rashford is pictured scoring England’s fifth goal)

Marcus Rashford (C) of England celebrates with teammates after scoring during the FIFA World Cup 2022 group B match between England and Iran at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, 21 November 2022

Ahead of the game yesterday, Iran’s players refused to sing their national anthem and the music was met with a torrent of boos from fans in the stands, many of them Iranians holding banners and wearing shirts with anti-regime messages.

The squad stood stony-faced as the anthem played at the Khalifa International Stadium, in an apparent sign of solidarity with protests currently engulfing the country back home.

Meanwhile at yesterday’s press conference ahead of the game, Iranian team captain Ehsan Hajsafi delivered an exceptional speech in which he spoke out against the conditions to which the people living under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and hardline President Ebrahim Raisi are subjected.

‘We have to accept that conditions in our country are not right & our people are not happy. They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathise with them regarding the conditions,’ Hajsafi declared.

England went on to demolish the Iranian team, scoring three goals in the first half before adding another three in the second. 

Iran managed to bag two, one from the penalty spot in the 13th minute of extra time, but players refused to celebrate either goal.

Catherine Perez-Shakdam, a specialist in Iran at the Henry Jackson Society, told MailOnline that the team and fans will likely be ‘punished severely’ for such an open display of defiance against the regime. 

‘The refusal by Iran’s football team not to sing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem will be a decision the players will pay for dearly. 

‘Similarly, any Iranian fan identified by the regime for booing the anthem will also face being severely punished. This is the brutal reality of modern-day Iran. 

‘Iran’s players may have forfeited more than just their freedom today; and their lives may not be the only ones on the line. 

‘Indeed, the regime has demonstrated a particular propensity to target dissidents’ family members and in doing so deter others from voicing their opinions.

‘Given Iran’s horrendous track record, it stands to note that the players and fans who today shunned the regime, knew full well about risks they faced. 

‘Such courage and dignity in the face of absolutism most certainly deserves our full recognition.’

Iran’s players refused to sing the national anthem as they lined up before their first game of the Qatar World Cup against Englandyesterday

Player stood stony-faced as the anthem played, while boos and jeers could be heard from the crowd behind them at the Khalifa International Stadium

Supporters sitting in the stands also stayed largely silent during the anthem, while boos and jeers also rang out in defiance of the regime

Protesters supporting the Iranian nation team were seen waving anti-regime banners in the stands yesterday in support of demonstrations that have been taking place in Iran for the last two months

Women attending the Iran vs England match in Qatar hold signs supporting protesters who are opposing the country’s theocratic rulers

Demonstrators in the crowd to watch Iran play England wave protest signs during the World Cup game taking place in Qatar

Iran has been wracked by more than two months of anti-regime demonstrations sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody after she was arrested for failing to wear a compulsory hijab.  

Since then, near-daily marches have taken place calling for an end to the country’s strict interpretation of Islamic laws and the overthrow of the mullah’s regime.

News out of the country is limited amid widespread internet outages, but it is thought hundreds – if not thousands – of demonstrators have been killed by security forces in an increasingly violent crackdown.

Iran’s national team have signalled support for the protesters in recent weeks despite the likelihood of them facing harsh penalties when they return home from Qatar.

In an effort to restrict large gatherings, Iran has closed all football matches to the public since the protests erupted. 

The reason for authorities’ fear became apparent as fans filtered into the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Monday. 

Many Iran fans wore T-shirts or waving signs printed with the mantra of the uprising – ‘Woman, Life, Freedom.’ 

Others wore T-shirts bearing the names of female protesters killed by Iranian security forces in recent weeks. 

The World Cup in Qatar, just a short flight across the Persian Gulf from Iran, has emerged as a rallying point for Iranian political mobilisation. 

Protesters have even called on FIFA,football’s governing body, to prohibit Iran from competing in the tournament over restrictions on women in stadiums and the government’s crackdown. 

Iranian protesters marching and chanting slogans in Piranshahr, in western Iran, during a funeral procession for a 16-year-old demonstrator killed the night before

Iran has been gripped by near-daily demonstrations against the ruling mullahs sparked by the death of a young woman in police custody after being arrested for failing to wear a headscarf

The question of whether to root for the national team has divided Iranians as the team becomes entangled in the country’s combustible politics. 

Many now view support for the Iranian team as a betrayal of the young women and men who have risked their lives in the streets.

Others insist the national team, which includes players who have spoken out on social media in solidarity with the protests, is representative of the country’s people and not its ruling Shiite clerics.

The Iranian government, for its part, has tried to encourage citizens to support their team against Iran’s traditional enemies. Iran plays the United States on November 29 – a contentious showdown that last occurred at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Observers note that the players are likely facing government pressure not to side with the protests. 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has urged his government to prepare for potential problems. 

Iran International, the Saudi-financed Farsi news channel that heavily covers the Iranian opposition, reported that Qatari authorities barred its reporters from attending the World Cup under Iranian pressure.

Already, Iranian athletes have drawn enormous scrutiny. When Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competed in South Korea without wearing her country’s mandatory headscarf, she became a lighting rod of the protest movement.

‘We’re waiting for them to show us they’re supporting the people in Iran,’ Azi, a 30-year-old Iranian fan living in Ottawa, Canada, said of the national team. ‘Some kind of sign, by any way they can.’

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