Germany and Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka has criticized anti-gay comments by Qatar’s ambassador to the World Cup, saying they are “oppressive” and “from a different millennium”.
Khaled Salman, a former Qatari international, said in a documentary broadcast by German public broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday that he has a problem with children who see gay men and women because they can learn something they shouldn’t, describing homosexuality as “a harm in mind.” and “spiritual harm”.
“This is not what we want to defend and what we offer. It is absolutely unacceptable to make such a statement,” Goretzka said, speaking after Bayern Munich’s 6-1 win over Werder Bremen on Tuesday night.
The 27-year-old has often emerged as one of the most outspoken and socially aware players in the Bundesliga, launching a “We Kick Corona” campaign with teammate Joshua Kimmich during the pandemic, for example.
Speaking in the same ZDF documentary, Goretzka said he would have preferred “to compete in the World Cup at the height of my career in another country. The fact that the human rights situation in one country was not part of the criteria for giving is a big mistake, and it makes us angry.”
Hasan Salihamidzic, Bayern’s sporting director, also expressed his displeasure with Salman’s comments, but refused to be drawn into a discussion about the club’s long-term sponsorship links with Qatar Airways.
“It’s a statement from an individual,” Salihamidzic said. “Obviously we have to talk about it. But first of all, it’s an individual, which is unacceptable.”
Hardline Bayern supporters, who have long been critical of the club’s business dealings with Qatar, also raised banners again protesting Salman’s comments during Tuesday’s win.
Qatar’s ambassador to the World Cup: Homosexuality is forbidden
Salman’s comments came just days after Qatar’s foreign minister insisted that all people were welcome to attend the World Cup in his country, including members of the LGBTQ+ community.
But the official World Cup ambassador’s description of homosexuality as “haram” – meaning a sin in the Muslim-majority emirate – had a markedly different tone.
“I am not a strict Muslim,” he said. “But why is it forbidden? It is spiritual damage.”
Excerpts from the documentary film by German sports journalist and TV presenter Jochen Breyer, titled “Geheimsache Katar” or “Secret Affairs Qatar,” were previously published by ZDF in its newsletter on Monday.
In the video, the media officer of the Qatar World Cup Organizing Committee, who accompanied the ZDF team while they were recording the video, ended an interview after Salman referred to homosexuality as “damage to the mind”.
In another excerpt, Salman said: “During the World Cup, a lot of things will come to the country. Let’s talk about gays, for example. The most important thing is that everyone will accept that they are coming here. But they will have to accept our rules.”
Same-sex relations are prohibited in public in Qatar and can carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison. The leaders of several European nations competing in the World Cup, including Germany, France and England, are planning to wear rainbow-colored armbands during their matches as part of an anti-discrimination campaign.
Qatar has also been criticized for its human rights record and its treatment of foreign workers. Fans in stadiums across Germany waved signs over the weekend calling for a boycott of the event, including watching TV.
German Interior Minister Nancy Wieser has said she will attend the World Cup after Qatar’s prime minister gave it a “guarantee of safety” for LGBTQ fans. Weser had said earlier that Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup was “very difficult” from Berlin’s point of view, prompting Doha to summon the German ambassador amid accusations of “double standards” and “racism”.
The International Football Association (FIFA), which awards the World Cup every four years to different countries, confirmed that all fans are welcome in the World Cup in Qatar, as did the Organizing Committee of the State of Qatar. As the Emir of the Gulf state, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said recently that respect for “our culture” is to be expected.
Edited by Matt Ford
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