Following allegations of bribery and reports of harsh labor practices, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is under a lot of scrutiny from FIFA and concerned parties, leading some to believe that the country may lose their right to host the tournament.
Today, the Qatari sports minister Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser al-Ali sparked further criticism toward the country while discussing the presence of alcohol and LGBT fans at the tournament. Speaking with the Associated Press, al-Ali said that his country, which normally observes strict rules about alcohol consumption and sales, would find a "creative" way to manage the needs of the Cup:
"In the hotels and many areas we have alcohol but we have also our own system that people need to respect," he said. "As we bid for 2022, we will respect all the rules and regulations by FIFA. We can study this and minimize the impact on our people and tradition. I think we can be creative, finding solutions for all of this. But we respect all the rules and regulations."
Then, after reporters broached the subject of LGBT fans at the tournament, al-Ali replied, "It's exactly like the alcohol question."
Per the Associated Press:
He said Qatar doesn't want to create "this impression, illusion that we don't care about our tradition and our ethical values ... We are studying all these issues. We can adapt, we can be creative to have people coming and enjoying the games without losing the essence of our culture and respecting the preference of the people coming here. I think there is a lot we can do."
Aside from the last sentence, al-Ali's response isn't likely to inspire a lot of confidence among the LGBT community.
Fans of all sexual orientations should be allowed to spectate and participate in the weeks-long festival without fear of retribution of discrimination, period. And, as the sports minister for a country hosting a tournament that promotes global unity, it's al-Ali's job to spread that message of acceptance and inclusiveness in an unambiguous and confident manner.
However, if there's one piece of advice we'd give him while he's working through the "creative" process going forward, it's that he shouldn't follow whatever example Russia is probably going to set during the 2018 World Cup.
[via Associated Press]