Openly gay footballer Zander Murray slammed Qatar World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman for his recent anti-LGBTQ+ comments. 

On 8 November, the former Qatari international described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” in an interview with German 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?” he said.

In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by penalties including flogging, imprisonment and even execution.

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 openly gay Scottish football star Murray. 

In an interview with Sportsmail, the Gala Fairydean Rover striker said that he was “hurt and upset” regarding the aforementioned statements.   

“I am now an openly gay footballer. And, of course, you feel hurt and upset by comments like that. Since I went public, the reaction has been so positive from across the UK. That’s why, when I heard those comments, I felt deeply hurt by them,” he told the news outlet. 

Towards the end of his interview, Murray went on to say he can’t help but be hurt by Salman’s words due to his emotional coming out journey.

“I can’t change who I am and the laws in Qatar are directly attacking people like me. For years, I have tried to be someone else and pretend I am not gay, and it created havoc with my life,” he said.

“Now I am being my true organic self, I can’t fail to be hurt by what’s being said there.” 

Murray isn’t the only footballer to criticise Salman and Qatar’s history regarding LGBTQ+ rights. 

On 8 November, German footballer Leon Goretzka described the ambassador’s words as “very oppressive” in an interview with the BBC. 

“This is an image of a man that comes from another millennium. It leaves you speechless that something like this can be said by a World Cup ambassador shortly before a World Cup,” he added. 

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to take place between 20 November and 18 December.