Gay footballer Josh Cavallo said to be ‘scared’ of making Qatar World Cup | World Cup 2022
The world’s only openly gay top male footballer said he would be ‘scared’ of competing in the World Cup tournament in Qatar next year due to the emirate’s severe ban on homosexuality and legal penalties ranging from flogging to long prison terms and execution.
Josh Cavallo, 21, who plays for Adelaide United in the Australian A-League, received a surge of support from football fans and current and former players last month after he spoke about his sexuality in a video posted on the club’s social networks.
Cavallo told the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast on Monday that the announcement followed six years of anguish trying to hide his gender identity from everyone he knew. “I didn’t just hide it from my teammates, I hid it from my family,” he said. “I hid it from my friends, I hid it from everyone I hang out with, so it was only when I was alone that I could really relax, not worry and not stress. . “
The announcement made Cavallo the only gay player outside of men’s professional football, his isolation strikingly in a sport whose administrators have launched large-scale public campaigns in recent years in support of fans and LGBT culture.
However, only a handful of male players came out, unlike women’s football, which easily crossed the same barrier: more than 40 lesbian or bisexual players participated in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, according to Fifa.
Critics have raised the fact that Fifa continues to award World Cups to countries like Russia – where homophobia has been called a “state-sponsored” project – and Qatar, where homosexual acts are prevalent. illegal, as proof of the unequal commitment of the governing body. to inclusion.
When asked if holding the tournament in a country with strict penalties for homosexuality sent the wrong message to gay footballers and fans, Cavallo, who played for Australia’s international Under-20 team, said told the Guardian’s daily news podcast that he is said to be afraid for his safety. if asked to compete in the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
“I read something like [they] give the death penalty to homosexuals in Qatar, so that’s something that scares me very much [of] and I wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that, ”he said.
“And that saddens me. At the end of the day, the World Cup is in Qatar and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is playing for your country, and knowing that it is in a country that does not support gay people and us. endangers our own life, it scares me and makes me reevaluate – is my life more important than doing something really good in my career? “
Homosexual acts are prohibited by several Qatari laws with sentences ranging from at least one year to ten years in prison. A “Danger Index” compiled in 2019 to guide LGBT travelers ranked Qatar as the second most dangerous place to travel for gay people.
Muslims in the country may be subject to Sharia law which prohibits all sexual activity outside of marriage with penalties of up to the death penalty, meaning homosexual acts can technically result in execution, although several reports on them human rights officials said there was no evidence that homosexuals were executed for the offense.
Cavallo said he had been contacted by several other professional footballers who were still in the closet asking for his advice on going out. “There are people who have contacted me confidentially and said, ‘I’m fighting the same Josh,’ and they’re professional footballers too. And look, that’s something you don’t. can’t rush. [I say] you wanna be yourself, and at the end of the day i wasn’t happy and now look at me i’m honestly on top of the world.
“They like the sound of that and they say, ‘Josh, I’ve never been through this before and I want to do it’, and I say, ‘It’s in your hands, it’s your trip and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. ‘ I didn’t think it was, but there certainly are.
Along with the appalling conditions for the migrant workers who are building the infrastructure of the tournament, the prospect of gay fans or players being arrested in Qatar has weighed on Fifa since the emirate was announced as host of the tournament in 2010. The president then-organization Sepp Blatter fueled controversy the same year when asked if he had any advice for gay people who wanted to travel to the Gulf state for the competition.
“I would say they should refrain from all sexual activity,” Blatter replied with a smile. He then apologized and said no one would be barred from attending a game due to their sexuality.
Qatar’s royal leaders see the World Cup as a chance to boost the development of infrastructure such as stadiums, hotels and a metro network in the capital, Doha, as well as attract tourists and forge links commercial and cultural with the world. But they walk a fine line between adapting to attitudes now dominant towards homosexuals in much of the world and the country’s own conservative religious values.
As the tournament approaches, Qatari officials have sought to reassure LGBT fans that they will be welcome in the country and able to express themselves – within limits. The display of rainbow flags inside stadiums, for example, will be allowed. Tournament general manager Nasser al-Khater said in 2019: “I would like to assure any fan, of any gender, [sexual] orientation, religion, race, rest assured that Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world – and they will all be welcome here.
Pressed at the time of the Qatari reaction to a gay couple holding hands, Khater said they would be treated the same as a heterosexual couple. “A public display of affection is frowned upon. It is not part of our culture. But it concerns everyone. “