German footballer Leon Goretzka has condemned Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman for his recent anti-LGBTQ+ comments.
On 20 November, teams from around the world are set to compete in the highly-anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup – which will be held in the Gulf region.
Since the news was announced, activists and footballers have expressed concerns over the tournament’s location due to the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws and treatment of foreign workers.
In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by penalties including flogging, imprisonment and even execution.
While the Football Association assured LGBTQ+ fans that they would not face arrest for kissing or holding hands in public, some of the cup’s officials, like Salman, have expressed the opposite sentiment.
In an interview for German television broadcaster ZDF, the former Qatari international described homosexuality as “damage in the mind.”
“They have to accept our rules here,” he said of LGBTQ+ fans travelling to see the World Cup. “[Homosexuality] is haram. You know what haram means?” he said.
When asked why it was “haram”, meaning forbidden, Salman added: “I am not a strict Muslim, but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”
Since the release of the interview, an array of LGBTQ+ activists and sports figures have condemned Salman for his comments, including German footballer Goretzka.
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“It’s very oppressive. This is an image of a man that comes from another millennium,” the Germany midfielder told the BBC on 8 November.
“It leaves you speechless that something like this can be said by a World Cup ambassador shortly before a World Cup.”
The German Football Association president Bernd Neuendorf echoed a similar opinion in an additional interview with the German daily Blid.
“The statement discredits the entire LGBTQI community and reveals an extremely problematic relationship with human rights,” he said. “Fifa should seriously examine whether its ethics committee should deal with this.”
Over the last few months, troubling reports have surfaced regarding Qatar and its treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
Back in May, Norwegian Broadcaster NRK, Denmark’s DR, and Sweden’s SVT revealed that some of the FIFA-approved hotels in Qatar were not accepting reservations from LGBTQ+ individuals.
During the investigation, a group of journalists posed as newlywed gay couples and asked for accommodations from 69 hotels in the region.
As a result, three establishments refused to book the couples, while 20 other hotels offered accommodation on the condition that they hide their sexuality.
The organisation also said there were at least six cases of “severe and repeated beatings” as well as five incidences of “sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.”
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to take place between 20 November and 18 December.