A Qatar World Cup ambassador has described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” just two weeks before the tournament gets underway.

The comments were made by former Qatari international Khalid Salman in an interview filmed in Doha for German television broadcaster ZDF.

“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?”

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.”

ZDF immediately terminated the interview, with Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser calling the remarks “terrible”.

This year’s World Cup has been marred with controversy since it was announced that it would take place in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTQ+ people are routinely subjected to discrimination and harassment.

Salman’s comments come not long after the Human Rights Watch reported cases of LGBTQ+ people being detained and subjected to “ill-treatment in detention” in Qatar as recently as last month.

There were at least six cases of “severe and repeated beatings” reported, as well as five incidences of “sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.”

This is despite the Football Association assuring fans that they will not face arrest for kissing or holding hands in public at the World Cup in November.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place from 20 November – 18 December this year.