Qatar officials continue to ban rainbow items in World Cup stadiums despite FIFA promise

A BBC cameraman was reportedly refused entry for wearing a rainbow watch strap, while German fans were stopped for sporting rainbow bands.

An Apple watch with a rainbow strap and rainbow background.
Image: Twitter: @NatPirks

As the Qatar World Cup enters its second week of fixtures, rainbow items continue to be prohibited in stadiums. This comes despite FIFA holding “urgent talks” with officials from the host nation, after multiple incidents were reported of supporters being confronted by security and made to remove certain articles of clothing in the opening days of the tournament.

On Friday, November 25, a BBC cameraman was reportedly not allowed to access the England and USA game because he was wearing a rainbow watch strap that was gifted to him by his son. The news emerged on Twitter after a sports correspondent with the organisation, Natalie Pirks, claimed that her colleague “was stopped by security and refused entry” for donning the accessory.

“Clearly the message from FIFA is STILL not getting through,” she added.

Pirks and her cameraman eventually made it inside the Al Bayt stadium after contacting a helpline specifically set up for crews experiencing problems in Qatar.

Similarly, on Saturday, November 26, two German fans attending the France and Denmark match were allegedly made to remove their rainbow-coloured items by Qatari authorities. Speaking to CNN, Bengt Kunkel said that he and his friend were taken aside by security guards on their way to Stadium 974 and were only allowed to leave and go to the match on the condition that they remove the accessories in question. Kunkel was wearing a rainbow-coloured sweatband, while his companion was wearing a similar armband.

“They took my friend quite aggressively on the arm and pushed him way from the crowd and told him to take [the armband] off,” Kunkel recalled. “Then they took me with him. They said: ‘You’re going to take it off and throw it in the bin or we’ll call the police.’”

Although the pair did not hand over or throw away the items, they were forced to keep them in their pockets in order to be released. Once outside the stadium, Kunkel put the accessories back on, and was stopped four more times before being allowed to take his seat in the stands wearing the rainbow bands.

In the opening week of the Qatar World Cup, Welsh fans were forced to remove rainbow-coloured bucket hats, while a US journalist was taken into custody for wearing a t-shirt with a rainbow design. These incidents prompted FIFA to hold discussions with officials from the host country, and the governing body subsequently told federations on November 25 that the tournament’s Safety and Security Operations Committee confirmed that rainbow colours would be allowed in stadiums.

Although homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, punishable by imprisonment and even death under Sharia law, World Cup organisers ensured fans and nations in the lead-up to the event that everyone would be welcome. However, incidents such as those outlined above have contradicted this promise, and the nation’s anti-LGBTQ+ attitude continues to be spotlighted.

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