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Fifa boss Sepp Blatter sparks Qatar gay controversy


2022 Qatar World Cup open to all - Blatter

Fifa president Sepp Blatter says gay fans going to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, should "refrain from sexual activity".

When asked if he foresaw any cultural problems, Blatter, apparently joking, said: "I'd say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities."

Then, speaking seriously, he said he was sure there would be no problems.

Gay rights groups, already unhappy at the choice of tournament venue, say he should apologise or resign.

Former basketball star John Amaechi is one of the world's most high-profile gay athletes, having come out in 2007.

He was highly critical of Blatter's comments, telling BBC Radio 5 live: "It's absurd.

"It's not about people having sex in public and being sanctioned for it, it's the fact that Qatar was one of 79 countries to sanction executing gays at the United Nations [where a vote in November removed sexual orientation from a UN resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions].

"One of the first things you notice is that it would actually be an insult to year seven students to say that their reactions, the giggling of grown men, sports reporters and members of Fifa, on this issue, when asked a perfectly simple and reasonable question given the worries about Qatar, that the whole room burst into laughter.

"It is the most childish response I could imagine.

"This does make it harder for footballers that are gay but let's not limit this.

"You have to understand that this story is big enough, his influence is big enough, to impact young people in school, people in workplaces, anybody who is perceived to be gay or is gay, hears these comments and once again realises that the seat of power, straight white men normally, are very, very clearly uncomfortable with this issue and certainly not interested in taking it seriously."

BBC sports news correspondent James Pearce says Fifa will make no further comment following Blatter's remarks on attitudes to homosexuality in Qatar.

"Fifa says Blatter gave all the clarification required in his press conference," said Pearce.

Qatar was the surprise winner of the race to host the 2022 World Cup, beating Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States when the 22-man Fifa executive committee voted in their favour in Zurich on 2 December.

Fifa has since come in for criticism after the decision to take the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time.

Concerns were raised about hosting the tournament during the summer months in a country where temperatures can reach 40C to 50C while current laws mean drinking alcohol in public is forbidden.

Gay groups are also worried about the acceptance of homosexual fans, and the Gay Football Supporters' Network (GFSN) say Blatter's comments show naivety about anti-gay discrimination and he should either apologise or resign from his post.

"Many LGBT [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender] people live in countries where they would face execution or imprisonment if discovered, these people deserve our help, our respect and our support," said GFSN chair Chris Basiurski.

"They, like the rest of us, do not deserve to be laughed at. Mr Blatter should retract his remarks and apologise immediately. Otherwise, he should reconsider his position and resign.

"Mr Blatter is naive to think that by taking the beautiful game to Qatar, it will bring an end to discrimination in the Middle East.

"He says that football is 'everything for everyone' but he has not yet explained just how Fifa is going to ensure that LGBT football players and supporters will be welcome in Qatar."

But Blatter does not foresee any difficulties, saying: "You see in the Middle East the opening of this culture, it's another culture because it's another religion, but in football we have no boundaries.

"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.

"If they want to watch a match somewhere in Qatar 2022, I'm sure they will be admitted to such matches."

Blatter says even if there are problems, there is still plenty of time to sort out any issues.

"I think there is too much concern for a competition that will be done only in 12 years," he added.

"But this gives me the opportunity to say that in Fifa, and this is in the statutes of Fifa, whether it is in politics, whether it is in religion, we don't want racism, and we know what this means, and neither do we want discrimination.

"What we want is just to open this game to everybody and open it to all cultures and this is what we are doing in 2022."

John Amaechi
Amaechi was the first NBA star to reveal that he was gay

But Amaechi did not see the funny side of Blatter's "refrain from any sexual activities" comments, telling his official website: "The statements and the position adopted by Sepp Blatter and Fifa regarding LGBT fans who would pay the enormous ticket and travel prices to attend the World Cup in 2022 should have been wholly unacceptable a decade ago.

"Instead, with little more than an afterthought Fifa has endorsed the marginalisation of LGBT people around the world.

"Anything less than a full reversal of his position is unacceptable and if the FA and football and sporting associations around the world fail to acknowledge this insult, they too will be complicit.

"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."

Blatter, who was visiting South Africa - the hosts of the 2010 tournament, insisted money had no part in taking the competition to new parts of the world.

Russia won the right to host the 2018 competition.

"This is development of football and don't speak about money," said Blatter.

"This has nothing to do with money as it had nothing to [do with it] with Africa.

"It is the development of the game. We have to take to places where it can improve and have a social and cultural impact. And it's what we did here in Africa."

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see also
Platini open to World Cup change
10 Dec 10 |  Football
Opoku revels in Qatar World Cup
03 Dec 10 |  African
Blatter brands England bad losers
08 Dec 10 |  Football
Fifa to keep Cup voting process
06 Dec 10 |  Football
Anson floats Fifa reform proposal
04 Dec 10 |  Football
FA chief to quit in Fifa protest
04 Dec 10 |  Football
England bid boss fumes at voting
02 Dec 10 |  Football
Russia & Qatar to host World Cups
02 Dec 10 |  Football
England miss out in 2018 Cup vote
02 Dec 10 |  Football

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Christchurch Press Gay rights groups condemn Blatter comment - 1 hr ago
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